Saturday, August 3, 2013

Everyone Has To Suffer

[I]f children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8: 17

“Hey, if you’re sufferin’, ya made a couple bad choices in your life.” Some Christians say with a compassionate tough-love talk expression on their faces, “Christ can’t bless ya. He’s turnin’ up the heat in your life, man, so you will come back to Him.”

Okay, that may be true for some people. But what about people who have made good choices and have been sacrificially obedient to God and yet they also go through the fires of financial crisis or poverty? They are victims of crime, or divorce or infidelity? What is God doing when good people are struck with cancer or the death of a child? 

We don’t say it aloud, but it plays out in our subconscious: there is a spiritual shame to suffering. We have failed if we are not happy and prosperous. God is withholding His good favor from us. Within the American Protestant culture is the subliminal assumption of a merit-based system of punishment and rewards. If things are going well, then “praise the Lord for He is good to me.” In bad times one is receiving the wound of God, not His blessings. 

Pondering the above video, it struck a deep and tender part of my spirit. Because of sin, we all suffer. We all suffer--those who are not of goodwill, those who are good and those who are very good. Saints suffer.

We need not allow suffering to cause resentment or defensiveness towards others who are not at the moment enduring agonies. We need not fear, nor feel as if we’ve failed when we are innocent victims of other people’s bad choices or even simply victims of the pains that come from living and dying. We all hurt. We all hurt because sin is crushing our world. 

Original sin condemned every human to endure physical and emotional pains.

[I]f you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. I Peter 3:14 (see also I Peter 2: 20; 3:17)

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, I Peter 1:6 (See also Acts 5: 39-42; Rom. 8: 17; I Cor. 12: 26; I Thess. 3:4; Rev. 2: 10)

Because of the passion of our Lord, Christians’ sufferings take on a wonderful new meaning. We are brought into the salvation of Christ’s Cross and we become like Him.

[I]f...we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. Rom. 8: 17

We freely lift up our pain to God uniting it with the Passion and death of Christ. This is what Christ wants, for He told us through St. Paul:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions. Col. 1: 24

Being very moved by the video, first thing this morning the Lord put before me, in His written word, this verse:

The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. Ps. 97:1

It dawned upon me, God isn’t blind nor naive. He sees the wretchedness of the earth. Yet even within the context of a wicked and oppressive world, God tells us that because He reigns, we can rejoice. God doesn’t mean we are to ignore the pain or distract ourselves from it with drugs or false celebrations or entertainment. It means even as we acknowledge and embrace  the heartbreaks we go through and grieve with those who are in crisis; through our tears we face our pain and bravely offer it up to God. Standing firmly in our faith, we rejoice, for we know we have a very good God. 

The last scene of the video says it all... 

As Christians, we pick up our cross and follow Him. He who bore the sins of the world, His suffering was redemptive and so our suffering is redemptive too. 

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