Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Pet. 4:12-13It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. (Phil. 1:29) Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. Col. 1:24
Dear Lord Jesus, these portions of your Word offers a critical corrective and incredible encouragement. To know that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life brings many of us a great deal of relief today; for many of us have endured the destructive consequences of bad teaching about suffering and hardship.
As a young believer I was taught that if had enough faith I wouldn’t suffer illness, lack, loss, defeat, doubt, economic struggle, emotional duress, and the list goes on. But you tell us painful trials and suffering are not to be considered strange at all—that suffering is a gift, just like believing in you is a gift (Phil. 1:29).
It’s not that I want to suffer more, Jesus, but no one wants to suffer in vain or with a sense of being a disappointment to you. It’s a horrible thing to live under the lie that we’ve been abandoned by you or are being punished by you. Pain and the condemnation of Satan can be an unrelenting source of torment.
Jesus, please help us understand how our suffering can be understood as participating in your sufferings. Your death on the cross was a once-and-for-all suffering—perfectly securing the salvation of your people. However, you’re not a distant, disconnected, dispassionate Savior. You’re presently making all things new, and this involves showing up in the messes and madness of life. Where there is injustice, disease, brokenness, and suffering, that’s where you will be found, and where you call us to meet you. Grant us grace, Lord Jesus, to desire and to enter the fellowship of your suffering (Phil. 3:10).
A Day of no more suffering is coming (hallelujah!) (Rev. 21:1-5)—the Day when your glory will be fully revealed—and what a day of rejoicing that will be! Until then, give us all the sufficient, sustaining, serving grace we need now to suffer with you and for you. Free us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. As your tear wiping hand comes to us, may it reach through us to the broken and hurting people in our world. So very Amen we pray, in your wonderful and merciful name.