I’m wondering something. If we are promised suffering as followers of Jesus, why do we spend so much time trying to avoid it? If suffering is an essential part of our journey with Christ, why do we do so little of it?
Isaiah prophesied of the Messiah,
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
I do not believe His sorrows and grief refer only to His suffering on the cross. Ask anyone who has endeavored to truly give themselves over to God and you will find that suffering and grief accompany those truly committed to Christ as much as they did Christ Himself. Not just at His death, but every day of His life.
Yet so much of our church rhetoric seems to be about avoiding suffering and relieving pain. So much of our teaching seems to be a pseudo self-help message filled with happy thoughts and “family friendly” theology. I guess the message of a suffering Savior who calls us to hang on the cross with Him every day of our lives doesn’t resonate well with focus groups and potential donors. But the self-help gospel is NOT the gospel of Jesus.
Here’s the truth: If you are going to live a life of righteousness and devotion to Christ, get ready to suffer. If you are going to sell out to His kingdom, get ready for attack and pain and rejection. If you are going to walk with Christ, He is going to call you to die with Him. There is no “power of His resurrection” without the “fellowship of His sufferings.”
We spend so much time pursuing happiness and avoiding suffering that we never get to experience the true joy that comes from being counted worthy to suffer for His sake. Maybe it’s about time we gave it a try.