Here’s a question I’ve been pondering lately.
Why do we appreciate some suffering, but condemn other forms of it? In specifically American Christian circles I see this all the time. We have this idea that, in America, where we are not sought out to be killed for our faith, we cannot suffer for Christ. That, because our lives are not in immediate danger, our suffering doesn’t count or it’s a fractured version of what other, better believers, go through. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s huge value in acknowledging and understanding how blessed we are to live in a nation where we can freely walk with Christ, without threats to our mortal lives.
But I think the enemy has sown a great lie here…
Because our lives are in danger. As Christians—it doesn’t matter where you are, what nation or government you’re under—the enemy is seeking to destroy you. Granted, we are not persecuted like those in foreign nations. We don’t have to hide in the walls or smuggle bibles across borders. Our mortal lives are quite pleasantly protected. But what about our lives? Our everyday, run-of-the-mill, mornings and evenings? Our walk with God.
How many people go off to college and renounce their faith? How many people live life with placid masks, but underneath burn with a fury towards the King? How many are lost to suicide? Live in constant anxiety? How many churches bend to the will of the world and affirm/celebrate things so clearly against scripture, just because they don’t want to offend anyone?
You can’t look at that and tell me that the enemy doesn’t have a part to play in these things. You can’t tell me that these things don’t involve suffering or death.
1 Peter 5:8-10 ESV “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
For many years, I had a deep, chronic pain (see my blog on chronic pain here). I couldn’t put my socks on without that sickening, nauseating, burn deep in my back. I could have (and sometimes did) blame God. I thought I’d fight this battle the rest of my life, and I remember being filled with so much anger and bitterness at the situation.
What I learned in the trials
I learned how to have joy in pain. How to take things one step at a time. How to give myself (and others) grace. The enemy tried to use that pain as an opportunity to separate me from Christ and community. It took years of every day putting my foot down and denying the temptation to become bitter and resentful. Was that not suffering for Christ?
What situation are you in that the enemy is using for sorrow? For pain or guilt or shame. Is it a broken friendship? Perceived judgement from others? Chronic illness, lack of finances, a different season of life—literally, whatever it is that is creating pain, emotional or physical.
Don’t discount your pain. Don’t discount your suffering. These are brilliant opportunities for you to walk with God. To suffer for Christ! Take joy in knowing that the Lord sees you.
Are you striving towards him in your pain? Are you seeking Him through it all? Then it’s suffering for Christ.
Don’t get me wrong. There is a wrong way to suffer. Fueled and twisted by bitterness, stewing in a pot of hate. And we don’t always get it right. I know I certainly haven’t, but there’s grace for that. And every day is a new opportunity to grab Jesus’ hand and suffer alongside him.
Just because some suffering looks different than others, it doesn’t mean it’s not still suffering. So, how are YOU suffering for Christ?
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