Thursday, January 15, 2015

Our Treatment of Trials

Letter Lessons: Our Treatment of Trials
By: Christopher Wiles
This morning I sat at Benjy's, a local family style eatery, and meditated on Bonhoeffer's letters.  I was served by willing waitresses, who attentively and graciously served my culinary needs.  I've met many waitresses in my dining experiences who have struggled with the trials life as single moms in low paying careers.  Yet they endeavor daily to serve me with a smile in spite of life's struggles.  For all you waitresses, thank you for your treatment of us during your trials. The following is what I penned while being served at Benjy's.
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 I would like to switch for a time from my normal light style of writing from my experience in daily life (Living Lessons) and share with you thoughts that inspire me from a collection of letters from another's extraordinary life.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German protestant minister  who wrote from prison before his 1945 execution at the hands of Hitler's Nazis.  May the following thoughts encourage and empower you through God's Holy Spirit.

Here are some of the excerpts from Dietrich's first letter to his parents after his unjust April 4th arrest. 
"Dear parents … The only thing that bothers me or would bother me is the thought that you are being tormented by anxiety about me … Forgive me for causing you so much worry… I'm most particularly anxious about my fiancĂ©e … besides that, I have my Bible… One is grateful for little things... I'm thinking of you and the rest of the family and my friends with gratitude and love, your Dietrich. " - April 14th, 1943

For ten days prior to this letter, Dietrich lived in solitude with bread to eat, no change of clothes, and a hard (likely concrete) bed.   Yet the first letter he was able to write to his parents was filled not with complaints of his poor conditions nor railings about his unjust imprisonment for speaking to the care and humane treatment of Jews.  His letter contained care and concern for others.  The thoughts contained in his first letter spoke of blessings such as a Bible and a thrush singing in the mornings.  His letter models well another prisoner's example contained in a letter to the Philippian church.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves."- Philippians 2:3

"I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." - Philippians 4:11

Were you to be imprisoned for your faith, what would you first letter contain?  Would it contain honor for your parents, care for your friends, and contentedness for God's provisions?   Answer those questions by considering how you respond to trials of life today.  Do you respond to them now with honor, care, and contentedness?  If your answer to the previous question is "no" then let's begin changing our responses.  Begin as Paul does with prayer. 

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." - Philippians 1:9-11

May your prayers be fruitful and your treatment of trials honor our Holy Father.
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If you would like to read more of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's letters, you can do so by ordering this book in paper format or for the Kindle:  Letters and Papers from Prison (1997)