Stop and think of all the verses that remind us we will experience suffering - and yet we seem so surprised and offended when it happens.
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake... Phil 1:29
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12
...strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. Acts 14:22
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 1 Peter 3.14-18
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4.12-19
Yesterday was one of those days where if someone would have given me a plane ticket, I so would have been out of here, and without a backward glance.
It had been hot and sticky most of the day... I was sweaty, stinky and wanting to get everything done so I could take a cool shower. Up before 5, I'd been going all day and I still had some emails I needed to write, dinner to prepare and then a kitchen to clean up, homework to supervise, Anna's work to grade and her lessons to get ready for the next day. A crazy, itchy rash I've had for a month or so on my ankle was driving me crazy. Then there was the headache from several bouncy trips over our nice pot-holey roads and washouts. We'd gotten some sad-bad news at school and after that, another warning about the security situation in the country. To top everything off the internet crashed and the power went out for a bit and Tim was working late in the studio... and the water company turned the water off, completely, with no warning.
It doesn't sound like suffering... not the real stuff. Like I said last week, I don't even pretend to claim that I grasp what it means to suffer or significantly sacrifice as a result of my faith or because I'm so compelled by God's great love. I certainly didn't receive a flogging; I wasn't thrown into prison or forbidden to do the very thing God had asked me to do.
Last night, though? In the middle of my self-pity party? It sure felt like it.
Suffering, even piddly and annoying stuff like all of the irritating ick described above makes it hard to live contentment, gratefulness, thankfulness... a life of praise bringing glory to God. It felt much better to close my door (probably more forcefully than necessary), mutter at the Lord, scowl and pick at my kids and fume inside at my husband because he was sitting in the air-con in the studio while the house felt like it was falling apart.
And then I remember what I've been studying this week.
They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life...”
Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!
They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
As I've read this passage several times this week, the Holy Spirit keeps drawing my heart back to some key points:
- The apostles' suffering was a direct consequence of their obedience to God.
- The apostles suffered because they did not meet men's expectations.
- The apostles saw their suffering as being counted as worthy by God.
- This suffering helped and empower the apostles as they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news.
Maybe someday, the Lord will grow me enough so that I can adopt the attitude of those mighty men... where the experience of suffering doesn't discourage but rather reminds me of the One for Whom I suffer... and suffering then emboldens and vests me with spiritual armor to keep on pressing on... joyfully following Him... regardless...