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‘Continue to Remember’ the Suffering in Ukraine – ChristianityToday.com

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By now, two years after the initial conflict, many Americans have largely forgotten about Ukraine. As often happens after a global crisis, we eventually become too distracted, irritated, or entertained by other news and media. Of course, there have been other more recent international conflicts as well, which also deserve our attention and prayers.
In early 2022, Ukraine began receiving widespread global attention during Russia’s invasion, but much of the initial aid has since diminished. Not only has general financial, material, and moral support been greatly reduced, but in some circles, Ukraine has become a political pawn for some—especially with the US presidential elections fast approaching.
When the conflict in eastern Ukraine began a decade ago in 2014, the global community knew Russia was likely preparing for more aggressive actions. But nothing could have prepared me for the morning of February 24, 2022, when I was shaken to my core as images of explosions and armored vehicles began filling the news and internet.
I’m a pastor in Lynchburg, Virginia, but I was born in Ukraine and have many friends and relatives who still live there. As the initial shock wore off and I was able to communicate with my loved ones, something was awakened in me. By the second month of Russia’s invasion, when millions of people were struggling to leave Ukraine, I traveled there to encourage and serve those affected by the conflict.
I have visited Ukraine four times over the past two years—and have witnessed firsthand the ongoing devastation of war. In my most recent trips, it has been disheartening to meet with fellow brothers and sisters who have felt neglected or forgotten by the global church.
Today, with our short attention spans and so many ongoing global crises, it is difficult to center our hearts on individual stories of devastation. Yet I believe it is vital for us as believers to consistently remember the suffering of our siblings in Christ—and to cultivate this remembrance as a habitual practice in our busy and distracted lives.
Whenever I think about Ukraine, I can’t get the words of Hebrews 13:3 out of my mind. The author implores followers of Jesus Christ to “continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (emphasis mine).
As citizens of God’s kingdom, we are called to pay special attention to the needs of the most vulnerable among us (Prov. 31:8–9, 1 John 3:17–18, James 1:27). We are connected within one body, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12), and our local churches are micro-expressions of a global church designed to function in unity. Just as we would never ignore a part of our own body if it were suffering, Christ’s body—the church—functions in a similar way. As Paul says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (v. 26). Neglecting or forgetting a member that is suffering can cause harm to the whole body.
We are called to share in the burdens of others by allowing ourselves to press into their pain. Doing so reflects the character of Jesus, who entered time and space to join us in our mortal afflictions. Scripture assures us that our Savior is “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Is. 53:3) who knew both sorrow and grief (Matt. 26:38, Heb. 5:7). And because of this, he knows how to help those who are suffering (Heb. 2:18). The more we share our heartfelt prayers, presence, and resources with the suffering, the more we behave like Jesus.
More than that, continuing to remember the suffering of others prepares us for our own potential suffering. Nobody wants to suffer, but we are guaranteed to go through it at one point in our lives—for Scripture promises that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). No person, community, or nation is immune from conflict and tragedy. Fellow Christians in places like Ukraine can teach us about resilience and courage—and the power of the gospel amid calamity and heartbreak. We need them as much as they need us!
Lastly, and equally importantly, we can use our voices and share our resources. We tend to be great ambassadors for the things we love, and we instinctively want to share them with others. I often can’t wait to tell people about a new restaurant or movie I enjoyed. If we really love our suffering brothers and sisters, why wouldn’t we tell others about their plight?
This includes amplifying the voices and stories of those who are in need as well as gathering and sharing our resources—including partnering with organizations on the ground to provide life-sustaining necessities like food, water, and medical supplies. God can use the different resources we have in our lives, as well as our spheres of influence, to meet specific felt needs. For instance, I started The Renewal Initiative to connect people and resources with vulnerable individuals worldwide, and this spring we are partnering with a group of mental health professionals to provide encouragement and support for relief workers in Ukraine.
One of the ways we fulfill the “law of Christ” is by carrying the burdens of others (Gal. 6:2), but we can’t share this burden alone—nor were we meant to. No one individual could meet all the needs of those who were suffering. No one organization has all the resources that are necessary to care for those who are in need. But as individuals and organizations come together, the burden gets lighter, and many needs can be met. To be sustainable, we need others to help us bear the burden of continuing to remember those who are suffering.
But perhaps our most powerful weapon is to carry this burden before the Lord in prayer. Never underestimate the power of prayer or how the Holy Spirit can use our specific prayers to bless and encourage those in need. Not everyone is able to go and serve in Ukraine, but all of us can make room in our spiritual rhythms to pray for our brothers and sisters there and in other vulnerable communities around the world.
I wish you could see the look on people’s faces in Ukraine when I tell them that my friends in the West are praying for them. Their response is usually, Thank you! Please tell everyone thank you for praying for us, and please don’t stop.
On one of my first trips back to Ukraine, I met a pastor who stayed to serve his church during Russia’s initial invasion—even after more than 60 percent of his congregation had left the area. Hundreds of refugees showed up from other parts of Ukraine requiring special care. And yet one of the things he said, which will always stick with me, is that he did not feel alone in his efforts because of the sustained prayers of saints around the world.
On the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, let’s continue to remember our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. This act of obedience will both bless them and enrich our spiritual walks. For as we draw close to the suffering of others, our hearts can expand to better reflect God’s love for the world at large. Jesus is still at work amid the suffering of men, women, and children in Ukraine, and we can partner in that labor by continuing to remember them.
Andrew Moroz is a Ukrainian American pastor and founder of The Renewal Initiative.
[ This article is also available in Português. ]
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