Philippians 1:29: “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.”

Do you think a life free from trouble brings us happiness? I’m not so sure about that. There’s a German idiom that somewhat makes fun of the desire to live in a world without problems: “Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen!” which loosely translated means: “Everything’s just hunky-dory!” I have met people who picture heaven to be a rather boring place. Their concept of heaven is a conflict-free life with nothing else to do but sitting on a cloud and singing Kumbayah. I believe we don’t give God too much credit if we have such low expectations! I suspect that heavenly peace has a lot more substance to it than just sitting on a cloud. God’s peace comes to full fruition especially in times of trouble, which is why it’s known to surpass all understanding.

I believe problems ultimately are our friends! Times of trouble, vexing issues, and even heart-wrenching suffering are an unwanted but essential part of life. Suffering shapes us, especially if we include Jesus in the equation.

The way Jesus suffered has always baffled me. He wasn’t arguing, He wasn’t defensive, He wasn’t lashing back at those who made Him suffer, yet He was no doormat either. He suffered like a champion. He was the King in chains. Pilate took note of that when he saw Jesus in his interrogation room. Pilate asked Him point-blank (Luke 23:3):

“So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied.”

Jesus took the bull by the horns and fully cooperated when He was apprehended by the Roman authorities. He knew it would happen, and He was prepared. So instead of being preoccupied with resisting His arrest and defending His case, His mind was free to look around and notice a need. Until He took His last breath He continued to make life better for the people around Him. Here is a list of things He did while on trial and even while dying on the cross:

  • He healed someone’s ear (Luke 22:49-51).
  • He made arrangements for His mother so she was taken care of after His passing (John 19:25-27).
  • He consoled the person crucified next to Him (Luke 23:42-43).

We too can take a different approach to our own suffering. As we’re trying to make sense of our bad situation, we might throw a pity party, or we might play the blame game and get angry. All these kinds of approaches are a waste of our time and energy. Whatever we’re going through, if we work through the issues instead of fighting them, our minds get freed up, and we begin to see the world around us with different eyes. We will suddenly take notice of people struggling with similar issues. And thanks to our resume of trouble we can now relate and become a blessing to them. Wouldn’t you consider this a blessing in disguise?

Each time we look up and seek God in our trouble or look around and have empathy for others in trouble, this is the beginning of what the Apostle Paul calls suffering for Christ. Paul goes as far as calling it a privilege to suffer for Christ, the best part of it being: we draw closer to God’s heart and understand Jesus just a little bit better. When Jesus suffered and rubbed shoulders with criminals, that’s when He was closest to us. And we will rub shoulders with Jesus when we suffer for Him. This will yield a blessing much bigger than we can imagine.

“What if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise”    Laura Story

 

 

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