Suffering. This Memorial Day weekend I made a special effort to say a prayer for those who sacrificed to give us the freedoms that we enjoy here in the United States. I am in awe of people who will knowingly go into a situation that may involve suffering; and not just suffering for their own cause or needs, but suffering on behalf of others. To be honest, I will go through a lot of trouble to avoid suffering of any kind and while I know this is part of our human nature and an important survival mechanism, I wonder if it is making me spiritually weak.
We recently watched what I thought was a really good and thought-provoking movie called, There Be Dragons. The movie is set during the Spanish Civil War and is based, in part, on a real-life Spanish priest named Jose Maria Escriva. In the movie, Jose Maria is portrayed as such a joyful, loving and likable person, one who is truly seeking the will of God and living to be a blessing to his fellow man. He is also portrayed as one who uses self-flagellation, whipping himself to the point of drawing blood, as a means of sharing in the suffering of the Lord. He is said to have taught that joy has its roots in the form of a cross. Controversial? Absolutely! Fascinating? Hmmm…
Like I said, I am prone to avoid suffering. I have a hard time even going hungry for day and a headache is enough to derail me on a bad day; so, I am not saying I am going to jump on this idea of self-inflicted pain. But I wonder if my desire to avoid any suffering is making me spiritually weak. Is my desire to avoid suffering at all costs not allowing God to fully do His work in me?
Mother Teresa said, “Suffering is nothing by itself. But suffering shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of love.” When we are in the midst of suffering we have an opportunity to connect with our Lord and Savior in a deeper way, if we choose to.
A few weeks ago I had an opportunity to hear Bill Myers, the author, give a key-note speech. In his talk he shared about a good friend who was suffering through a terminal illness that caused tremendous pain and required many visits to the hospital. On occasion Bill would drive him to the hospital and on the way his friend would double over, clearly in terrible pain. In the midst of his pain, Bill said he would hear his friend whisper, “Thank you, Jesus.” Thank you for pain. Thank you for suffering. It’s not an easy thing to understand and probably impossible for someone who does not know Jesus, but I want this. If I am to suffer, I want to have the spiritual depth to understand that this is an opportunity to draw me closer to God, to share in His suffering ~ suffering He endured for me.
So what does God say about suffering? Here are a few verses from the New Testament:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance…
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.
For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.
But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
On Memorial Day we remember all the soldiers who suffered and died on our behalf so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we have here. We thank them for blessing us ~ and rightly so. Our Savior suffered and died on our behalf so we could enjoy freedom in Him and with Him forever. Can we thank Him for the blessing that comes in sharing in His suffering? Fellow soldiers, are you willing to join me and at least try to view the suffering that comes our way as a means of drawing closer to our leader and Lord?