I tell people quite often that I don’t like to suffer, yet I have found suffering to be a common visitor in my life. Suffering has come in the forms of lost loved ones, challenging obstacles, broken relationships, juggling day-to-day life as an African-American woman in this world, and neglect in the church just to name a few areas.
As I reflect on these experiences, each provided opportunities for spiritual maturity as God drew me closer into relationship with him. Yet my humanity struggles with why God calls his children to a life of suffering.
The truth is present in scripture: Suffering reveals Christ to us and makes us more like him.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:7-9 NIV).”
Suffering teaches us how to respect and submit to God. It humbles us into a life of obedience so that we can see him more clearly and serve him more faithfully.
Suffering humbles us by reminding us that God is God and we are not. In spite of what we are led to believe, we are not in control and he neither depends on our council nor approval. We are sons and daughters of his good creation, sheep of his earthly pasture. We submit to his authority.
Suffering encourages us to commit to a life of prayer. Prayer reminds us that we are dependent on God to do his job and therefore, we can focus on the work that he has called us to (Ephesians 2:10). We don’t have to stay up all night worrying about a particular problem or how to save the world. He has already provided an answer through the savior, Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Suffering increases our confidence in the most high God. Deliverance from suffering only sustains us until the next time that suffering knocks at our doors. I gain confidence from knowing if God brought me through before, he will do so again and again because he is faithful to me and he honors the promises of his written word in my life.
Through his earthly ministry, these are the lessons Jesus taught us about suffering.
Romans 8: 16-18 states, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Through suffering, we are comforted that we will one day bask in God’s unimaginable glory all because of the suffering of Jesus. What a wonderful time that will be?
What do you think about sharing in the sufferings of Christ Jesus? Do you embrace suffering? Why or why not?
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011
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