Thursday, February 2, 2012

Suffering

If you know any human being, you know someone who has suffered. Suffering is one thing we all have in common, to one degree or another. Through most of human history, suffering has been the norm. For the follower of Jesus, suffering is what our Lord told us would happen to us (John 16:33).

In the West, particularly in America, we seem to have bought the notion that suffering is something that happens to those who are "sinners," or to those Christians who just don't have enough faith. We don't like suffering (I am included in that number). It hurts. It's hard. It doesn't fit our image of the "blessed life." It lasts too long. I have heard this attitude described as wanting the crown without the cross. Take a look at the kind of preaching you will find in a lot of churches and organizations. There are steps to become a better (fill in the blank), principles to be happy, keys to finding your best life.

You don't hear many sermons on Romans 5:3; 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:19, and other passages that speak of our suffering as followers of Jesus, and how that suffering allows us the privilege of entering into the sufferings of Christ. We simply don't take seriously the many times our Lord tells us that following him is going to cost us something. It's not really anything big, just our life!

Some of us wouldn't mind suffering so much if it didn't take so doggone long. I think the word longsuffering is appropriate. Suffering seems to last and last, so we look for a quick fix, and when one can't be found, we complain to God that it's too hard and is going on too long. We live in an instant gratification culture, where you can get it quick and get it your way. What we forget is the simple fact that if we seriously follow Jesus, we give up the microwave, Burger King life. What we do get, we get in God's timing and in his way. We don't really like that. I know I don't. It gets in the way and messes up our plans for a nice tidy life. It reminds us that Someone else is in control, not us.

Suffering is a fact of life, even for those who claim that their faith puts them above and beyond it. Wouldn't it be better to suffer for the King and his Kingdom, knowing he can and will redeem it and that it can't even begin to compare with the glory that awaits us? I think I'll take that deal. God help me.

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