John Carter – May 2, 2017
Suffering is a Gift

{Facebook Post and Response}

I choose suffering.

Recently a friend asked me why I would choose suffering. This is my brief response.

I choose suffering because—for the Christian— choosing suffering is choosing joyful-hope.

  1. BECAUSE JESUS DID – Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus looked at the cross of suffering and shame (these are historical terms, not religious) and saw it as a joy. The thing that brought him great pain and suffering became a source of joy. Therefore, I should look to Christ and pick up my cross and follow him (Mark 8:34) to my death seeing my shame and suffering as a joy and not becoming bitter.

    Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

I recently chose to memorize this verse. I needed to sear into my mind that my sufferings do not need to be purposeless. Nor do they need to result in a bitter heart. Instead, they should become the various ways that I experienced God conforming my entire being to his purposes and will.

    Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Much credit here belongs to the insights of Dietrich Bonhoeffer[1]. A man who knew how to suffer joyfully like his Savior. The glory of God is my hope. I need that hope. I sing of that hope. I smile at that hope. I rejoice in that hope. But up to this point I have never counted it a joy when I have suffered for that hope. (James 1:2-4) I know that if I am a Christian I will suffer (John 15:20; 2 Timothy 3:12). But I always saw that suffering as a necessary evil and not a necessary joy. Yes, suffering is rooted in much evil. But if my savior was most glorified through suffering, then how can I call him my Savior if I reject the very suffering that He appointed to me to bring him more glory?  Further, that suffering produce more hope than without out that suffering. And I need more hope.

Christian suffering isn’t minimized compared to the rest of the world. Christian suffering is purifying. The suffering that is senseless and degrading for the unbeliever (non-Christian) is hope-building and God glorifying for the Christian.

Oh, may I ever rejoice in the sufferings that I am called to endure for the name of Jesus Christ. Not so that I might be a silently-smiling-masochist. But so, that my great Savior, Jesus Christ, might be seen as more glorious to those who suffer without hope. And I might rejoice further still in the hope of the glory of God.



[1] The Secret of Suffering, Finkenwalde, March 1938, Dietrich Bonhoeffer