If you’re reading this, I’m already impressed with you. The fact that you would click on a post titled “Suffering 101” is quite an achievement. Suffering not a comfortable topic to discuss, but I believe it is important for us to understand.
A few months ago, God really put the concept of suffering on my heart. I want to say that I was faithful and obedient and immediately leaned into what God was saying, but that’s just not the case. I avoided. I ignored. I pretended like that wasn’t the topic God wanted me to focus on. But I just couldn’t escape it. It seemed like every book or Bible passage I read had something to say about suffering.
While trying to avoid this particular subject, I realized that suffering fills the Bible. Seriously! It’s a commonly discussed topic by many of the writers. It fills the Gospels and the Epistles. Even when we read through stories in the Old Testament, we see people of faith suffering because they were whole-heartedly following God.
Though the concept of suffering for the sake of Christ is a common theme in the Bible, we rarely discuss it here in America. I can say with some certainty that I’ve never done a Bible study or listened to a sermon about suffering.
The comfortable version of Christianity doesn’t match up with the version found in the Bible.
Part of the reason why I resisted studying suffering and writing about this topic was because I didn’t want to address the issues within my own heart. I love being comfortable. I don’t want to get out of my comfort zone. I want things to be easy and done my way. I want life to happen on my terms. And there’s a version of Christianity that supports that, but it’s not the biblical version of Christianity.
2020 revealed a great deal to me, including my idol of myself. I didn’t realize just how strong my devotion to my own wants and desires was. I had constructed a view of myself as a selfless Jesus-follower, but that’s not quite accurate. I’m not all that willing to lay down my life for another. My capacity for suffering for Christ is quite limited.
The other day, I was praying and asked Jesus to make me more like him. Then I felt him ask me, “Do you really want that?”
I love it when God responds to me with a question like that. It was like he was inviting me to, once again, count the cost of following him. Becoming more like Christ means denying all of the things that we are taught in American culture to love—wealth, influence, power, and what others think about us, to name a few. If we live like Jesus, we become servants to all and deliberately choose to put ourselves last. Living like Jesus means that we love our enemies and bless them. We endure mocking, rejection, and betrayal without saying a word. To truly look like Jesus means that we suffer. That’s really uncomfortable. I honestly don’t like the sound of that.
When God asked me that question, I did pause. I thought about it. I moved on in my prayer but continued to ruminate on his question throughout the day. A few hours later, I finally felt like I had my answer.
Even with all of that rejection, pain, and suffering, I want to live like Jesus. I want my life to reflect him.
So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to be discussing suffering. Last month, the Infected Church series was pretty uncomfortable, and we’re just going to continue that particular trend. God didn’t call us so that we could be comfortable. Our comfort is not his main priority. I feel like he is calling his kids to wake up and truly see him. I think that we have been complacent with the comfortable, safe version of Christianity for too long.
Though I would much rather write about cheery topics, I feel so strongly that suffering is what God is highlighting for me right now. So, let’s get uncomfortable together and dig into what it looks like to suffer for Christ.
Thank you for courageously choosing to go on this journey with me!
Have you ever heard a sermon or read a book on the subject of suffering?
Why do you think the concept of suffering is so prevalent in the Bible but rarely discussed in the Western church?