The Value of Strife
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance [emphasis added]. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Compared to our forefathers, many American Christians have it easy. That said, the pandemic has shown Americans born after the mid-1990s a taste of the large-scale economic, physical, and emotional struggle that that permeates daily life around the world. 
Real strife is not often discussed in contemporary America. However, it is an all-too-present reality for many individuals.
A typical case is the embattled country of Ukraine. In a recent exclusive report, CNN covered the journey that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the frontline of the conflict in eastern Ukraine where Russia-supported separatists have been fighting since 2014.
Zelensky commented on the crucial role that the United States can play in the struggle by saying: “If they [the US] see Ukraine in NATO, they have to say it directly, and do it. Not words.” 
Even though the Ukrainian conflict involves the United States as a potential ally and protector, Americans at large remain disconnected.
Perhaps a more familiar foe to the average American citizen is the classic North Korean missile test. In the first weeks following the inauguration of President Biden, North Korea conducted one such test meant to challenge the new Commander-in-Chief. According to retired South Korean Lieutenant General Chun In-bum "it is a clear statement of intimidation." 
Except for these occasional North Korean threats, the average American remains blissfully oblivious to the reality of war. As of 2015, roughly 7.3% of Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. Currently, less than 1% of Americans are active-duty military. 
Thus, for most young Americans, this kind of visceral threat to one’s very existence seems unreal.
Our lives are easy compared with the experiences of many other people around the world. Although this is not necessarily a bad thing, it has made many Christians complacent, especially members of the younger generation. We are unaccustomed to seeing the suffering of the world and are sometimes at risk of failing to appreciate the seriousness of our faith.
Nonetheless, we should not despair, even in the year(s) of COVID-19. Despite attempts by states such as California to close churches and discriminate against religious citizens, Christians should not be discouraged.  In some ways, strife and oppression can act as a convicting force that encourages the development of true belief. For example, despite the intense oppression of the Chinese government, Christianity has become the fastest growing religion. 
Followers of Christ are comforted that the turmoil of the world should not act as a cause for fear in Matthew 24:6. The verse says, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” Christians are reminded that they have hope in Christ who will come again.
Instead of being discouraged by the struggle around us, Christians, especially those who are just now coming-of-age, should recognize that this is an opportunity to grow in their faith and move closer to our Father in Heaven.
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 Matthew Chance, “Ukraine's President heads to the trenches as Russia masses its troops,” CNN (April 12, 2021), https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/12/europe/ukraine-zelensky-front-lines/index.html.
 Ramy Inocencio, “North Korea launch of "new-type" missiles draws warning from Biden as he faces a ‘daunting challenge,’” CNN (March 26, 2021), https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/12/europe/ukraine-zelensky-front-lines/index.html.
 Mona Chalabi, “What Percentage Of Americans Have Served In The Military?” FiveThirtyEight (March 19, 2015), https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-percentage-of-americans-have-served-in-the-military/.
 “Protestant Christianity is booming in China,” The Economist (September 15, 2020), https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/09/15/protestant-christianity-is-booming-in-china.
 Ryan Brooks, “The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Put Gen Z And Young Millennials' Lives On Hold,” Buzzfeed News (April 20, 2020), https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ryancbrooks/gen-z-young-millennials-coronavirus-pandemic-recession.
 David G. Savage, “Supreme Court rules California churches may open despite the pandemic,” Los Angeles Times (February 5, 2021), https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-02-05/supreme-court-rules-california-churches-may-open-despite-theing-pandemic.