Holy Suffering

“If we are His children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ sharing His spiritual blessing and inheritance, if indeed we share in His suffering so that we may also share in His glory. Romans 8:17 (AMP)

When we look at the modern Church, we see that the topic of suffering is typically on either end of a rather extreme spectrum. You have one side of the church who teaches that life should be rainbows and butterflies when we follow Jesus and another that teaches that God Himself is sending fire down on our lives to suck any glory that He can out of us. (Of course there are the rare few that dare to walk the tightrope down the middle.)

Before I continue, however, I believe it’s important to address the elephant in this virtual room. We tend to look at people’s “extreme” suffering and camp out on a few different thoughts: “Well, my problems don’t really matter, I guess” “we’re definitely in the end times, now” or “how could God not stop that from happening?”  

I, personally, disagree with all of these trails of thought and I want to take just a few moments to explain why.

Do Christians have it worse in other parts of the world? Yes, but Jesus doesn’t look at you and say, “Get over it, at least you aren’t being martyred.” He cares that you can’t find your keys or your boss is being disrespectful or whatever it is that your heart aches over. He doesn't fluff off your problems. (But, let me also clarify that we do often lack perspective and it is important to recall the incredible suffering of our brothers oversees and intercede on their behalf.)

Second, people protesting the president, gay marriage, and really horrible things happening due to terrorist attacks, as awful as they may be,  do not mean that it’s time to through in the towel and say that it’s the “end times.”  Rick Warren once made an amazing statement about the end times that I stand by, fully, “John reported that in his vision of heaven ‘I saw a great multitude which no one could count, standing before the throne of God. They were gathered from every nation, every TRIBE, every race, and every language.’ Revelation 7:9 For that picture to be true, we still have about 2,900 tribes to share the Gospel with, so someone from that tribe will be in heaven.”  We are far from that day- our sufferings do not point to the end times.

We know that suffering is in the world as a consequence of sin. If sin had not entered the world in the Garden, we would not know suffering. But I do not believe that any of it is outside of the Father’s control. While most shudder at the thought of God planning our suffering, we have to look at all suffering through the lens of the cross. The cross was the most unjust and most horrible suffering of all time- yet it was planned by the Father. The worst pain the world has ever known was the separation Jesus felt from the Father on the cross but the greatest victory, the greatest redemption, the greatest joy came from it as well.

The suffering on the cross lead to eternal intimacy with the Lord and His greatest glorification. I believe that, when we belong to Him, all of our suffering has the same purpose- it pulls us closer to Him then it glorifies His name.  

Pastor Dave Zuleger wrote, “Suffering is one of the great instruments in God’s hands to continue to reveal to us our dependence on him and our hope in him. God is good to give us the greatest gift he can give us, which is more of himself, and he’s good however he chooses to deliver that gift.”

In our suffering, we are made like Jesus and we know Him in a way that we wouldn’t know him without it.

When we are outcast, we know Him being rejected in His hometown.

When we have little, we know the Son of Man who had no place to rest His head.

When we feel lonely, we know the God-Man who no one in the history of time could empathize with.

When we suffer the loss of someone we hold close to our heart we know the sorrow of Jesus, hanging on the cross, who was a part of an eternal and perfect intimacy of the Trinity who had always been in perfect union- being abandoned.

And in being made like him in His suffering our Father who never lets us suffer in vain, lavishes us in His glory as well.

So as we suffer and as we feel the aches of this world, we hold to our Friend, our High Priest who can empathize with every ache and every hurt. We hold fast to knowing that we are never outside of His hand or His plan for our good and His glory.

Liafaith Fischer is a Refres{her} blogger for Ignite Life. She is a 23 year old singer/songwriter who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but has made Las Vegas her home. She feels called to communicate that not only is brokenness beautiful but it is what brings the lonely together and is what draws us closest to Christ. She does this through original songs, which can be found on her debut EP, Wander, and on her blog- liafaithlive.com. She also works full time for Grace City Church as a worship leader and as their worship/production coordinator.