My father-in-law’s cancer is back, and right when he was feeling up to traveling to the United States to visit. It’s hard. We’ve shed tears. Being an ocean away from one side of the family is never easy, but the distance is felt even more acutely when a loved one is ill.
Through this time, King Jesus has been teaching us a few things about suffering:
- You cannot look more and more like Jesus without encountering suffering. He was the Suffering Servant, after all.
- You cannot lead like Jesus without encountering suffering and sacrifice. His supreme act of leadership was laying down His life.
- Therefore, we ought not make decisions based on the desire to avoid suffering and sacrifice.
- Furthermore, when trials come our way, we should rejoice through the pain, knowing that suffering has a redemptive purpose.
In recent weeks, I’ve been committing Colossians to memory. As I work my way through the text every day, I am taken aback by Paul’s determination to rejoice in his affliction (Col 1:24). It’s obvious he is able to rejoice in suffering because he sees what’s beyond the moment.
It reminds me a little of childbirth (not that I would know from personal experience!). Standing next to my wife as she gave birth to our children, I saw how difficult and painful the process was for her. And yet both of us were filled with excitement. She groaned in pain, but she knew the pain was purposeful. New life was coming. There was rejoicing in the pain.
When we go through trials, it’s not helpful to minimize the pain, ignore the difficulty, or pretend that things are not as bad as they really are. This is denial, not redemption.
Neither is it helpful to merely accept pain and suffering as if it’s just the way of this world—That’s just the way it is.
No… the Bible points us forward to something better. We say:
- This is just the way it is, yes…
- But this is not the way it’s supposed to be, and…
- This is not the way it WILL be.
Holding firm to these three truths helps us see beyond the suffering. We must not minimize the pain of the present. Neither must we imagine that our present circumstances are forever. Instead, a kingdom mindset expands our horizons and helps us see our present pain in light of our future glory.
We rejoice in suffering, not because we get a kick out of pain, and not because we’re in denial, but because we know what’s coming. We’re in the birth pangs of the world, and the kingdom is on its way. So we rejoice! And by rejoicing, we show the world that Christ is all we need.