The Kindness of Suffering

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Blood moon photo credit to http://www.space.com (because there was a blood moon this morning!)

“…which is why I suffer as I do.  But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”  2 Timothy 1:12

Paul is actually quite an encourager, but he’s an honest encourager.  He doesn’t just tell us the words we want to hear.  Everything isn’t going to turn out in a “honky dory,” escape all the tough stuff way.  At least not by our normal standards.  But Paul is encouraging by higher standards.  And just as Paul is sharing in the suffering of Christ for Christ, so will Timothy, and so will I, if I’m living out my belief unashamedly.

I mean, there are all kinds of suffering.  Sin brings the suffering of judgment.  Suffering can follow disobedience or be related to “evil warfare in spiritual places”, but that’s not what Paul is talking about here.  He’s talking about being called to share in the suffering of You, Lord.  It’s the Greek word “paschos” which is where we get the words “pathos” and passion from.  And according to You, it’s a mark of worthiness in a believer.  “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)  Look at that.  It’s granted to me as a favor, A FAVOR, in KINDNESS, as my RESCUE, to suffer for Jesus.  When was the last time I thought that?  When was the last time I believed that?  Well, it’s what I want to engrave deep in my heart and mind and soul today.

How could suffering be all these things and make me worthy?  How can this be a gift?  Can you imagine a person who would choose to voluntarily follow a path of suffering?  Jesus, You did.  And I’m Your follower, right?  Therefore, what does that imply?  I ought to voluntarily follow the same path You followed if I am Your follower.  I ought to voluntarily surrender to and in Your way.  I mean, everyone goes through suffering.  But who am I really suffering for?

How do I know who I’m suffering for, who I’m passionately willing to follow no matter the cost?  And why would I follow You, Jesus, no matter the cost?  Paul tells me that He follows Your will because of the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.  He tells Timothy that grace, mercy, and peace from God and Jesus come with the following.  It gives us a pure conscience and a sincere closeness, a prayerful closeness, with our fellow sufferers.  It brings us joy in one another.  It shows the measure of our faith, its sincerity.  It shows the power of God, that even in the midst of suffering, that God’s gifts are stirred up in us and evidenced through a spirit of power, and love, and a sound mind.  It demonstrates that we are partaking of Christ by receiving what Christ receives with His own.  It shows that I have accepted Your calling, that I’m doing Your works and not my own, for Your purposes and grace, and not my own, because why would anyone normally choose this road of suffering?

But You are not like others.  Your ways are above man’s ways.  Your way is the way of suffering.  Because You can’t defeat suffering unless You overcome it.  Suffering is not a part of God.  It’s everything You are not.  You alone can overcome and totally defeat suffering, because suffering came with sin.  And if I want to rise above suffering, I have to rise with You.  Which means first, I have to place my trust in You, my life in You, my being in You by letting go of me and dying to self and voluntarily choosing to live in You.  I must die with You, which is the beginning of my suffering.  It’s the beginning of my passion for You.  Because only then can I partner with You and live with You and in You.  And I will know like Paul, and Timothy, that You will guard all of me in Your trust until that Day that I am fully with You and there is no more suffering.  See, it’s all because of You, Jesus, who suffered first and abolished death, ushering in with You life and immortality through Your Gospel.  For this Gospel, for the truth of it, Your follower, those who believe You, are called to join in Your suffering for this end, this goal, Your goal, You.  So we hold fast to You and to Your words, in faith and love for You, as You hold fast to us by Your faith and love.  Because it’s only by Your faith in love that we are filled with and demonstrate the same.

You are the Good Thing that was committed to each of us who believe.  And the Holy Ghost that dwells in us is able to keep us always mindful of all that You have committed within us for every situation.  I shouldn’t be afraid of chains.  I shouldn’t be ashamed of suffering for the right reason, for You.  It shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  What matters is what You think.  Would I seek You out no matter what?  What if my brothers and sisters in Christ where suffering, would I avoid their suffering?  God forbid.  Let me come along side and understand and be an encouragement in You.  Let me seek them out and find them so that they know You are there, You care, You see, and You provide.

I suppose suffering is the place designed by You to learn what ministering is really about.  It takes away all the fanfare and the glory.  It tests the depths of my heart and my serving.  In the midst of suffering, what is in it for me?  What do I gain from suffering?  Maybe suffering with Christ brings me to the point of wanting to give and not get.  Of wanting to give and not receive.  It takes me to a place where I can experience Your compassion and not empathy.  Hmm.  Compassion.  Doesn’t “com” mean “with” or “alongside”?  And haven’t I been looking into the word “passion”?  Isn’t that suffering, and in this case for Christ?  So, isn’t compassion, drawing alongside someone else who is suffering?  Can you really encourage from the outside?  Or do you have to be part of the experience to be a true encourager?

When others were ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment, Onesiphorus was not.  When he was in Rome, he sought Paul out.  He sought him out diligently.  And he found Paul.  He wasn’t ashamed to go be with him even in his chains.  And Paul says that Onesiphorus’s actions and presence refreshed him.  Lord, may I so seek out and find those undergoing suffering for Your sake and may You allow me to be refreshing to their spirits.

Jesus, You came to earth, not for the fanfare, but for the sake of experiencing my suffering.  You came to suffer for me so that I would never have to experience the true depth of suffering the wrath of God.  Of all suffering, no suffering would equal that experienced under the wrath of God.  But You came to be part of that experience for me, for each of us.  Therefore, You alone have the right to be my True Encourager.  You are the One who first showed true compassion.  You came alongside us and suffered not only with us, but for us.  Lord, I want to be like You.  Actually, I want it to go deeper than that.  I want to be in You and You in me.  I want to be capable of suffering and especially suffering alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ.  And I don’t want to do it for my glory.  I want to do it because it’s the least I can give back to You, and sometimes, it’s the most I have to give, because I don’t really have much else.  But I can give me.  And I want to give all of me.  Guide me where You will, Lord.  I am not ashamed.  I know Whom I have believed.

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