Should we desire suffering?
Too often we make avoiding any suffering the goal of life. Children complain when asked to stop watching television and set the table. The “suffering” involved is too great a sacrifice in their opinion. Husbands sometimes find the effort required for loving to their wives to be too great a sacrifice. In each of these examples the “suffering” involved is obviously good and right, it’s what God would want us to do, but it is also real suffering.
Following Christ and living righteously involves suffering. Jesus says it will be a daily experience. “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23
Self-denial involves suffering and is an important part of following Christ.
If we are honest about being sinners, we will have to admit that sometimes we love sin and want to walk in it. If we are to say no to our sinful desires, we will have to embrace suffering… it hurts to change. We will have to see suffering and change as good for us; a right choice to make.
Our tendency to avoid suffering at all costs puts us in opposition to God. Jesus said, “If your right hand offends you, cut it off.” Matthew 5:30
Suffering to be righteous is a good thing. Let’s seek God’s grace to understand this perspective and to live by it.
The Good of Suffering
The Cross of Jesus Christ dignified suffering, gave it meaning, and showed that it can accomplish much good.
God is not wrong to call us to share in the sufferings of Christ. Rather, He is blessing us, if we have the eyes to see it. The apostle Paul saw it as such and prayed, “that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;” Phil. 3:10 Rest in the knowledge that the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings is a place of great blessing and joy.
There is a spiritual fellowship with God in times of suffering. We draw near to Him and find a sweet closeness unlike other times.
Psalm 119:71 “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.”
Suffering is a unique teacher, as Peter instructs us: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10
Peter tells us that through suffering God will:
- Perfect us, or advance our sanctification
- Confirm our relationship with Him, or comfort our souls with security of salvation
- Strengthen and establish us, meaning that instead of trials, pain and suffering weakening us, beating us down, God actually uses such times to strengthen us.
God’s ways are not always our ways. He has explained Himself to us. May we live in His grace, giving thanks for the trials and suffering He is pleased to have us experience.