For nearly two years, I’ve been praying the Wesley Covenant Prayer on my knees each day. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, did not write the prayer, but he adopted it for covenant renewal services often held around the new year. He saw it as a potent way to re-surrender one’s life to Christ. In its original 18th century English, it begins:

I am no longer my own, but Thine.

Put me to what Thou wilt;

Rank me with whom Thou wilt.

Put me to doing; put me to suffering…

Until recently, I had not paid a lot of attention to the suffering part of this prayer. A couple of months ago, some missionaries connected to a church in Bloomington/Normal changed that. Leanne and I went to a meeting where the woman of a missionary couple described their recent experience in Libya, North Africa.

Against the Law

Libya has a population of 6.8 million and proudly proclaims their people are 100 percent Muslim. In fact, it is against the law to be a practicing Christian in Libya. This couple and their kids could not get visas to come into the country as Christian missionaries. They came as business entrepreneurs. Their business helped support them as they shared their faith and led people to Christ at nights and on the weekends.

Although the culture was hardened against Christianity, the people were warm and open to spiritual things. Over the course of two to three years, a couple of small groups of new Christians began meeting in their home to worship, learn, fellowship and pray.

Their newfound faith was no little thing. To become a Christian in that culture is extremely costly. Believers are shunned by their family and friends, can lose their jobs, and may be imprisoned by authorities.


One day, the husband of the missionary couple went missing. Soon after, several of the men who were part of one of their small groups also disappeared. They had all been picked up by police and taken in for questioning.

The missionary husband was interrogated, threatened, and ultimately released, but he and his family were required to leave the country within in a couple of days, including a police “escort” to the airport.  Their visas were rescinded and passports stamped, “Do Not Return.” They can never enter that country again.

However, their friends they had led to faith, brothers in Christ, were thrown in prison for professing Jesus as Lord. The couple said there is no way to know if they will be let out or if they will be publicly executed on national television to deter anyone else from considering the Gospel.  

The Only Way to New Life

In the midst of this gripping, real-life drama, here’s what caught me off guard: the woman’s ambivalence over their friends’ fate. Of course, she didn’t want this horrific and unfair situation for their dear friends, but at the same time, she knew their friends’ suffering and potential martyrdom would bring many more people to faith in Christ.

I remember her saying, “We don’t understand the power of suffering. We don’t talk about it much in America, but we follow a suffering Servant who saved the world through his suffering and death. It’s the only way to resurrection and new life.”

Now, as I pray that covenant prayer each day, I can’t help but think of and pray for these five Libyan men who are likely still in some dark prison cell, half-starved, separated from their families, and possibly awaiting a brutal execution by the state simply because they believe Jesus Christ is their Savior and the Savior of the world – as I do.

I have no category for that level of suffering. My life has been so easy in comparison. Generally, my culture has rewarded me for having faith in Christ, not severely punished me.

Only recently have I begun to see the redemptive power of suffering. I readily confess, this is not a subject I have ever fully grasped, even though I’ve had some losses that pinned me to the mat.  

Boiling Point

To me, suffering is a form of boiling. When great pain comes our way, our whole life heats up well beyond a normal temperature. But not everyone reacts the same way. Boiling affects organic substances quite differently. If you boil an egg, it becomes hard. If you boil a potato, it becomes soft.

Sometimes suffering has led me to become hard on the inside, brittle, unbending. But that’s not its intent in the spiritual life. Suffering is to soften us. It’s a doorway to compassion. I recently ran across part of a centuries old Gregorian chant translated from Latin: Come, Holy Spirit. Bend what is rigid in us, Melt what is frozen…  

A Softening

In a surprising way, God is doing this heart softening in me now. After years of considering some volunteer role with a Pregnancy Resource Center, about a month ago, I set an appointment and talked with the director of a local center in Bloomington. I shared my personal story of adoption as an infant and said I would like to help new moms or dads who are suddenly facing a crisis pregnancy.

This is not easy for me. It brings up a primal wound that is always tender at best. But out of some personal suffering, God has given me compassion for new parents in this unexpected situation and a special compassion for the little child forming inside that mom.

I don’t know how I’ll be able to help, but I’m making myself available. What I do know is I’d rather be a potato than an egg, so God, this spud’s for you.  

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Roger Ross

A native of Cambridge, Illinois, Roger has served as a pastor in Texas, the British Channel Island of Guernsey, and Illinois. While in Illinois, he led teams that planted two new churches and served for 10 years as the lead pastor of one of the largest United Methodist Churches in the Midwest. It was his privilege to serve as the Director of Congregational Excellence in the Missouri Conference before coming into his current role with Spiritual Leadership, Inc (SLI).

Roger now comes alongside pastors, non-profit leaders and their leadership teams as an executive coach, specializing in leadership that inspires change. As a side gig, he loves teaching evangelism and church planting as an adjunct professor at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas.

Other passions of his include SCUBA diving in warm blue water, Krispy Kremes, and board games with family and friends. He also has a weakness for golf.

Roger is the author of three books, Meet The Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith, Come Back: Returning to the Life You Were Made For, and Come Back Participant Guide, all through Abingdon Press.

Now for the best part. Roger is married to Leanne Klein Ross, and they live Bloomington, Illinois. God has blessed them with two adult children, a son-in-law, several tropical fish, and one adorable granddog.