Is Suffering on Your Grocery List?
You will not find a jar of suffering on the shelf at Target. Why? It’s the obvious- no one would purchase it. Suffering is not something we would look for if it were lost. It is not typically self-inflicted. Suffering is avoided at all cost. We do not like to suffer.
However, the Bible has much to say about suffering. It wouldn’t hurt us too much to explore some of the deep truths found in the Bible as we, our church body, suffers. Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:
First, Are we willing to suffer if it means more glory for God? This probably sounds ridiculous to you. However, Paul was willing to suffer for the glory of God. In 2 Corinthians 4:15 Paul says, “It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” Paul welcomed suffering as long as it resulted in more grace that would produce more gratitude for God’s glory.
Second, Are we focused more on our current suffering or our future hope? Paul baffles me when he writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 these words: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Paul referred to his suffering as light and momentary. We must ask ourselves, “What exactly was Paul’s affliction/suffering?” Paul actually answers that for us. Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28: Paul was whipped with 39 lashes (5 times), beaten with rods (3 times), pounded with stone, shipwrecked (3 times), stuck in the sea for an entire day and night, frequent journeys, danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from his own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger out of the city, danger at sea, danger from false brothers, toil and hardship, many sleepless nights, hungry and thirsty and without food, abandoned in the cold and completely exposed, and the daily pressure of anxiety for all the churches (every day). That’s a grocery list full of suffering.
Yet, in this suffering he finds room to say “light and momentary affliction”. Does that not bother you? Does that not convict you?
Paul didn’t focus on the affliction and suffering. He focused on his future hope. Paul understood that whatever affliction and suffering he endured in the present could not compete or compare with the hope and healing he would taste and experience in the presence of King Jesus!
Third, Does suffering make you look more like Christ or less like Christ? For many of us, we tend to gripe and complain when suffering slips its way in our grocery cart and we find it showing up at our home. I sure know I do. Suffering isn’t something I would refrigerate, I would trash it instead. However, wasn’t Jesus referred to as the Suffering Servant? Isn’t suffering a part of emulating Him? Perhaps suffering is to draw us closer to Christ, not push us further away?
We must keep our eyes focused on our future hope with Jesus. In so doing, we must not run from suffering. Instead, we need to be prepared to honor God through it. My prayer is that by asking ourselves these three questions it will help us pursue that end, for God’s glory. No, I’m not encouraging us to “shop” for suffering. Instead, I’m helping us understand that when suffering finds us, we can honor God through it.