Suffering. That which you avoid is what you need.

18 04 2017

It seems almost un-American to speak of suffering. After all, doesn’t our country offer “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

Even Christians in America shy away from speaking about the difficulties of life. Many preachers carve out a ministry by emphasizing only the positive aspects of following Jesus.

Not so with Jesus. He suffered and promised the same for his followers. In more recent years, my family has suffered a fair amount. I don’t like it. But I am trying to learn from my suffering.

Joy when suffering?

Ironically, suffering is often spoken of alongside joy.

Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2)

James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”

These days I write about what I call the “gospel cycle.“  because I find so much clarity in the fact that God uses this four-fold pattern to grow every disciple into maturity — and that includes suffering.

For me, the gospel cycle unlocks the secret of how you can be joyful when you suffer. How so?

–>> Each encounter with suffering displays the risen Christ in and through you.

Let me explain. Our calling as disciples means that, as suffering comes, we share in the death and resurrection of Christ in a profound way. Nowhere is this truth stated more plainly that in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Notice the pairs:

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed;
we are perplexed but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down but not destroyed”
(2 Cor. 4:7-9)

Disciples share in the death of Christ as we suffer in various ways. Paul lists some of those:

  • hard-pressed,
  • perplexed,
  • persecuted,
  • struck down.

We could add many others, such as: illness, loss of loved one, loss of property, criticism from unbelievers, getting sued, depression, weakness, etc.

treasure in clay potsPaul makes it clear that out of our death-like experiences emerge resurrection-like realities:

“always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body”
(2 Cor. 4:10).

When you suffer, God is going to be at work to display Jesus in your life, and through you to others. The situation will still be difficult, but the privilege of displaying Jesus should give you joy.

As difficult as it is to endure a season of suffering, it can also be one of the more precious times of companionship with Jesus. In fact, some believers who look back on a time of intense suffering long to return, not to the hardship that came upon them, but to the closeness which they experienced with God.

I encourage you to linger with God during this time to experience whatever He desires. Elsewhere I have written on how this pattern helps us pray when we suffer.

The teaching on the Gospel-Cycle is powerful. It will unlock a lot of understanding for you. Please subscribe to my email list and I will send you more of this Biblical teaching.

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One response

3 05 2017
From Sadness to Lament | Robert E

[…] have meditated on this theme often. I am in process.  Here is a post called Suffering. That which you avoid is what you need. And here are some thoughts on how the gospel pattern helps with Prayer when […]