Cyprian of Carthage: True Worshiper of God

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But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. Job 23:10

“Job, after the loss of his wealth, after the death of his children, grievously afflicted, moreover, with sores and worms, was not overcome, but proved; since in his very struggles and anguish, showing forth the patience of a religious mind, he says, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, naked also I shall go under the earth: the Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away; as it seemed fit to the Lord, so it hath been done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” [Job 1:21].

And when his wife also urged him, in his impatience at the acuteness of his pain, to speak something against God with a complaining and envious voice, he answered and said, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women. If we have received good from the hand of the Lord, why shall we not suffer evil? In all these things which befell him, Job sinned not with his lips in the sight of the Lord” [Job 2:10]. Therefore the Lord God gives him a testimony, saying, “Hast thou considered my servant Job? for there is none like him in all the earth, a man without complaint, a true worshiper of God” [Job 1:8]…

Righteous men [and women] have ever possessed this endurance. The apostles maintained this discipline from the law of the Lord, not to murmur in adversity, but to accept bravely and patiently whatever things happen in the world; since the people of the Jews in this matter always offended, that they constantly murmured against God, as the Lord God bears witness in the book of Numbers, saying, “Let their murmuring cease from me, and they shall not die” [17:10].

We must not murmur in adversity, beloved brethren, but we must bear with patience and courage whatever happens, since it is written, “The sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God does not despise” [Psalm 51:17]; since also in Deuteronomy the Holy Spirit warns by Moses, and says, “The Lord thy God will vex thee, and will bring hunger upon thee; and it shall be known in thine heart if thou hast well kept His commandments or not” [8:2]. And again: “The Lord your God proveth you, that He may know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul” [Deuteronomy 13:3].”

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, writing during the plague in North Africa (c. 251) in Treatise VII, On the Mortality, 10-11, in Treatises in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, Volume 5 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1899) 471-472.

We are living in challenging times. My prayer for everyone reading this is that God will enable us to come forth as gold and appear as true worshipers of God. That means we accept joyfully the struggles and suffering without murmuring.

Before I offer some practical suggestions, let us learn from the bishop and his use of Scripture. Notice that to inspire Christians facing difficulty, he drips Scripture. He reminds them that God tests and us and what He looks for, that God notices servants like Job as well as grumblers. He sees all.

God sees us in our self-quarantines and our social distancing. How will we function? I suggest you call one or more people daily. Check in. Ask them how they are doing? Many are in crisis. They were just laid off or furloughed from their job. Offer to assist them as you are able.

Some may be doing well. The COVID-19 crisis may not be impacting them much yet. If so, invite them to join you in reaching out to others and offer the same care. Cyprian knew that if their hearts were focused on trusting God rather than complaining, that people would see Christ in them.

It worked then. It caused the gospel to spread, and it can work now. It’s one thing easy to live generously in good times, but what we do in moments like this can best reveal our Christian faith to a hurting world. He knows the way we take. When He has tested us, may we come forth as gold.