I just signed up for a 6 week gym challenge. I’m still shaking my head and thinking; what did I get myself into? In the next 6 weeks I am going to invite suffering in my life. I committed to working out 4 days a week, which for me means that I won’t be able to sit down or stand up without pain simply because it’s been far too long since I worked out and I know my muscles won’t hold up to this intensity. I am going to have to change my priorities to make sure I carve out time to show up. There will be sweat, tears and possibly blood involved.
Part of this challenge will mean that I have to change my eating habits. Say good bye to cookies, cake, ice cream, a bowl of cereal at 9pm and PB & J sandwiches. So long to my comfort foods: mashed potatoes and pasta. This is going to hurt. I haven’t been able to discipline myself enough to get the results I want. Now, I have to call in the professionals to reframe and reshape my body. Left to my own understanding I will forever want good health while I satisfy every sugar craving known to man and insulate my insatiable need for comfort.
When I really think about it; this idea of intervention is not unfamiliar to me. This is very parallel and similar to my spiritual walk with God. I’ve thought about a slogan that was once popular in the Christian community a few years ago; “If there is no pain there is no gain.” I had a sweat shirt that had that phrase written across the back of it with a picture of Jesus wearing a thorny crown, driving blood down his face. If that sounds gruesome -point made. Who in the world would invite suffering into their life? I’ll tell you who. People like me. Those who have tried everything on their own to live a better life, yet end up sitting on the sidelines defeated, crushed and bitter. That was me until I asked Jesus to be my savior.
After I started a journey with Jesus, I realized that I actually signed up for suffering but, it would be suffering for a good purpose. In God’s Word, James 1 tells us to consider it joy when we face trials and temptations because it will produce a list of good and fruitful things. On the other hand, Wikipedia says that suffering is the opposite of happiness and pleasure. Wikipedia and God’s Word have different definitions. Now isn’t that something?
There are two kinds of suffering. The first kind produces a meaningful change in character and motivates us to have an intimate relationship with God. Its where and how we learn as Christians to become one with Jesus united in spirit. Our character is refined after we sign up for a life of persecution and then yield to Him as he helps us shed our selfish desires. We are willing to do this because as James said, it produces something good. The apostle Peter tells us in 1Peter 4 that when we participate in the suffering of Christ we will be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. We should rejoice.
Holy suffering is purposeful, meaningful and there is something to celebrate because of it. Perhaps the celebration is a change in character or learning just how close Jesus is to us while we suffer. Have you recently had a situation or circumstance that seemed like suffering but in the end you celebrated God’s glory? I bet you have. Hold on to that and remember that as a step in your faith on your journey for the next time. We can’t always understand what God is doing in the moment, but those who follow Him know that he is going to do something great in the midst of it.
God’s Word is contrary to the definition of suffering in Wikipedia. The other kind of suffering is just what Wikipedia suggests it is, the opposite of happiness and pleasure. Suffering without God leads to compounded bitterness, resentment and a sense of defeat that robs us from hope.
I am so glad I signed up! Got the sweat shirt! I called for intervention to reshape my mind, asked for help to exchange my self-serving and indulgent attitude for suffering that produces a mature and complete work in me. I can rejoice in Holy suffering. A suffering that produced a celebration and so far, I’m pretty happy with the results. It was totally worth it!
Sheri Page has been married to her husband for 10 years and cherishes their blended family of 6 adult children and 9 grandchildren. She has worked in and alongside ministries for over 30 years. She has served many roles with in the walls of a church including, a Women’s Ministry director and assistant to a Care Pastor where she served people who were walking through Baptism, Celebrate Recovery, Divorce Care and benevolence. Sheri loves to share her curiosity and unique understanding of life with Jesus by her side. She is a 5 year breast cancer survivor and considers that experience to be the one of the greatest gifts God has given her. More writings from Sheri can be found on her blog: https://thelordsdwellingplace.com/