Oswald Chambers said it best, “When it comes to suffering, it is part of our Christian culture to want to know God’s purpose beforehand. In the history of the Christian church, the tendency has been to avoid being identified with the sufferings of Christ. People have sought to carry out God’s orders through a shortcut of their own.”
Ouch. That one hurts!
I’ve been mulling this quote for the past few days. Namely, because I’m guilty of taking shortcuts. My own personal wiring is short on patience and long on accomplishment. However, as I’ve come to know Christ more intimately, He’s taught me the value of His timing and why waiting is imperative. It’s a humbling experience that I value.
It’s also stinking hard to do. So is sharing in His suffering.
I do not know anyone who, in the flesh, says, “Hey, bring on the suffering!” Pain is an anathema. Whether it is the pain of being shunned for my faith, being called intolerant, judgmental, and critical; whether it is a friend (or two or six) who will no longer fellowship because we’ve turned Christian; whether it is our heavenly Father who tells us to deny ourselves; all of these things cause suffering. Is it because God is mean?
Many times the suffering is in direct response to our own prayers! Let me ask: when you ask God to make you one with Him, this is one way He accomplishes it. Paul said, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, (Most of us stop reading at this point but there’s more. Read on.) and the fellowship of His suffering.”
One thing I love and respect about God is that He’s straight with us. He tells us beforehand what to expect. Then we get angry with Him because it happens! Satan does just the opposite. He gives the good first, and then comes the bondage, addiction, loss and destruction of lives, relationships, and finances—the snake.
I’ve learned the hard way far too often. Been there, done that, don’t want the tee-shirt.
1 Peter 4:13 says, “…but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…” Is he nuts? Yet, Peter does say to rejoice. When’s the last time you shouted, “Whaaahoo!” while going through a rejection, loss of a job, or adversity because of your Christian testimony? Well, here’s yet another opportunity to identify with Christ. How is rejoicing possible under such circumstances? It would be a cruelty if there were not a supreme and ultimately positive outcome.
God always has a plan; He’s always in control; He’s always working toward building our character. If we will submit to Him,(whether or not He tells us His purpose), we will become the very fragrance of Christ. His purpose will come to fruition and in the process, we grow spiritually. Much of my own personal and deepest healing came by way of submission and pain. I stopped wanting to control and protect myself from pain. The problem with that is that I continued to stuff the pain rather than release it to Him. Finally, I allowed God to go anywhere He wanted—to the deepest part of my core—and heal me.
Painful? You bet. Transformational? Oh, yeah.
This is not to say that we develop the warped habit of self-inflicted pain, or wearing pain like a banner. But, when He asks us to lay aside our ambitions, pride, vanity, self-pursuits, right to speak, right to have our own way, and so on, let Him. Rejoice in the fact that Christ trusts you with suffering. Remember that you are not in it alone. He's with you even in the blackest muck.
The gauntlet of challenge has been thrown down. Will you pick it up?
Will you allow God complete and unhindered access to the deepest part of you? This kind of suffering teaches us many things: It shows us that Christ identifies with our pain. It also demonstrates the power of God to transform. When this occurs, it empowers us to identify with others who have not yet taken the leap of faith in God, and are still suffering unnecessarily.
Pick up the gauntlet. I dare you.