I know this almost sounds like I’m speaking a foreign language to American Christians who can’t believe we would ever be called to suffering. I know it sounds like heresy to a church that has almost totally given itself over to a gospel of self-help and self-actualization.
Put down the pitchforks and torches.
Jesus came to do so much more than give us some nice words to live by, a pat on the head, or encouragement to make us feel good. Jesus came to reconcile us to God. Jesus came to make a way for sinful men to stand before a holy Father. Jesus came to fulfill the righteous demands of the law and excuse our death penalty as a free gift from God.
It’s like the amazing gift of redemption and eternal life isn’t good enough for me. I have to be happy now. I have want answers for my problems now. I forget that Jesus told me to deny myself and die to myself if I want to follow Him. I’m convinced that Jesus led a lifetime of loneliness, suffering, and pain. Not just at His death, but His whole life. What makes me think I should be any different if I’m going to follow in His steps?
Actually, I think we are being sold short. Look at believers in other countries, the ones for whom faith is a daily risk – of family, of career, of life. Yet observe the passion and intensity of their faith. Yet, here in America, our obsession with comfort and encouragement has left us always wanting more. We are more stressed, more depressed, and less fulfilled in our faith than believers who have none of the physical comforts of this world.
I’m truly believe that Christianity is meant to be practiced in an environment of suffering. We can never know the full measure of the Spirit and grace of God until we have no other options. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
So if Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor,” then why am I always trying to be rich? If Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted,” then why am I always trying to avoid it?
Walking in the footsteps of a suffering Savior isn’t easy.
But there is an abundance of grace most of us have never known, and it’s waiting for those who are willing to get beyond their need for encouragement and happiness to truly walk with Jesus down that lonely road of suffering for Him and the lost world that surrounds us.
Maybe that’s why Jesus told us there wouldn’t be many on that road with us.