Rejoice in Suffering
Father-God is completely good – even supremely good – all the time! Jesus loves you so much that he willingly died to set you free from sin and gave us the right to become part of the heavenly family. The Holy Spirit makes his home in the heart of every believer to empower, direct and fulfil your good works. What could possibly go wrong?
First, we live in a broken world, prone to evil and everything “groans” until the kingdom fully comes. The kingdom has arrived in hearts of faithful believers, but it still needs to quietly work its way through the world, like yeast in dough. Until then, God is not in control of people not surrendered to him (nor in us when we’re not obedient) and the rest of us must suffer for it.
Second, would we know joy and peace if we knew no suffering? How much love would we have if it didn’t cost us anything to love others? As you become transformed in the image of Jesus, the joy of the Lord will eventually pervade the Spirit-led life. The dominant manifestation of this life will be love. Suffering is the midwife of this new life.
Let’s state a simple definition: suffering is having what you don’t want, or not having what you do want. All those who belong to Jesus suffer no lack of God – provided that your barriers to connection with him are removed – and that’s what the work of inner healing is all about. What else is there to make you suffer? As some have observed, if you died with Christ, you are dead to this world. “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14:8
John declared in his first letter (2:15): “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” That’s the trouble. Many bring on unneeded suffering. James made it clear (4:1-2): “What causes conflicts and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the passions at war within you? You crave what you do not have; you kill and covet but are unable to obtain it. You quarrel and fight…” St. Paul provided the antidote (1stTimothy 6:8): “If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
But then there is suffering for the sake of Christ. Consider what St. Paul wrote about love in 1stCorinthians (13:7): “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Did you ever notice that suffering is implied? What did Jesus say about love (in John 15:13)? “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” True love is costly. Love suffers. Do you want to be made perfect in love? Peter advises in his first letter (4:1-2): “Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves with the same resolve, because anyone who has suffered in his body is done with sin. Consequently, he does not live out his remaining time on earth for human passions, but for the will of God.
Hence, when we suffer, our love actually grows when we continue to love those who hurt us, make us angry or afraid. What is maturity but learning to suffer what is necessary to do the right thing at the right time. It takes practice, to be sure. This author has not yet been made perfect in love. But we don’t waste our suffering by hating our enemies and fighting back – which simply prolongs the agony in most cases and yields bittersweet results when we win. We Learn to suffer well by keeping our love switched on in face of deprivation or maltreatment.