7 Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Brothers and sisters, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
Patient in Suffering
by Juan Carlos Esparza Ochoa, Ph.D.
But, how long, O Lord? Will it be forever? (Psalm 13:1)
How can someone tell us to be patient? Is it that our suffering is just ignored, hidden, deleted? When we are suffering, it’s very hard to be patient. Nevertheless, it is even harder when we perceive such a suffering as a consequence of inequality, injustice, abuse, discrimination, and/or exploitation.
Neonatal mortality has decreased, but it can still be 56 times higher in one place than in another (according to the World Health Organization). Although I know that we live in a “world of worry” (UNDP), worries are always harder for some of us.
Dear Father, I want to get away from macro-boring-data when talking to you, but can I forget the corpse of that 6-month-old-baby who died of starvation in Central America? How was that possible, whereas some other families were concerned about their children properly learning English to be successful in life? Are we sisters and brothers, or is that only a bad joke? Are you “our Father” or someone made that up just for keeping us in order?
Yes, Father, I am here in Waco, in the United States, but my heart still bleeds with a Global South that cannot calmly hear the words of James without also raising its voice to you. Together with the claiming voice of the earth, where my sisters’ and brothers’ blood has been poured, we yell in desperation: How much more? Until when?
It seems that both early and latter rains have been forgotten by heaven, and many of us are afraid to get our crops lost forever. In spite of that, You, Father, tell us to be patient. I understand that you don’t want us against other brothers or sisters—because You are the judge, and we are not. But I wonder if You also want us to be quiet in front of the scandalous injustice and to just remain waiting for a sudden intervention of Yours.
No! It is difficult, and we cannot deny that patience has been manipulated throughout the history of Christianity, of slavery, of colonization, of discrimination, of exploitation. However, our brother James also gave us the example of suffering and patience: the prophets! As they, we are also called to denounce all the injustice and fight for justice, in Your Name, O Father! We are called to say “woe” to those who practice injustice and oppression (Isaiah 10:1-2). We should remind everyone that the Lord will not forget the works of those “that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail” (Amos 8:4-7), because cursed is anyone who becomes richer taking advantage of neighbors (Deuteronomy 27:17). It is worth it to be hopeful!
Although movies keep showing the apocalypse as a terrible ending of the world, I can see, Father, that your plan prevails over injustice, and your blessing strengthens our fight for justice: Amen; come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 20:20)!
Learn More About Our Guest Writer
Juan Carlos Esparza Ochoa, Ph.D.
Juan Carlos Esparza Ochoa, Ph.D., joined Baylor University in February 2019 as Research Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and the Director of the Program on Religion and Latin America Studies in the Institute for Studies of Religion. He has researched and taught about religion in Latin America for the past 18 years and is co-director of the Project on Religion and Economic Change (PREC). As part of PREC, he attempts to measure the impact of Protestant and Catholic pastoral care, missionary activity, and humanitarian work on education, health, economic development, and political outcomes around the world over the past two centuries.
This research required developing techniques to link consistent data from diverse historical sources over such a long period of time – something that stymied previous scholarship on long-term development. As part of this project, he also linked 120 years of Mexican census data to understand what factors influenced the life conditions of poor and marginalized communities over the long term. For seven years he managed data for global religious demography projects at the Pew Research Center. Prior to earning his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin, he did ethnographic research about Afro-Caribbean religious movements in Cuba and worked with Mexican indigenous communities in the Sierra Papanteca, the Huasteca Potosina & the Nayar.