God says you can handle it
The other day while Rebekah and I were going through our morning devotions in Spurgeon’s Mornings and Evenings, we came a crossed a section where Spurgeon outlines why Christians suffer. This is really an interesting question because in a way the question itself doesn’t make sense. The reason I say this is because since the beginning of our history, to be a Christian has meant to suffer. The very basis of our faith is founded in the affliction of our Lord Jesus Christ, and if anyone had gotten confused as to thinking that our life would be characterized by something else, just take a look at Jesus’ words in John 15:20, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
For any who are reading this post and might find this as new information I am grateful that someone was finally told you, but for most, I would imagine this would not be new information. The reason I write this and why what Spurgeon had said was so puzzling was that he puts this lifestyle in perspective. Suffering is the mark, the trophy if you will, of the Christian life. How do you know you are still on the straight and narrow? You check your life for suffering, for affliction and deep turmoil, this will provide your answer.
Much more can be said about the kind of suffering you face, from people or from nature, or of how we should respond to it, but I write this to talk about one thing in particular; that is why do Christians have to carry onto the same, long, burdens for so long? Why is it that God allows us to feel the same whip for days, weeks, months, and for some of us, maybe even years? On top of this, why aren’t all of Christian brothers and sisters carry similar burdens? Why is it that our burdens always seem to be heavier than our fellow traveler? Why is it that you are the one that has to continue at a job that brings you nothing but grief, or that you have to continue in unemployment while your account dwindles and you have kids to worry about? Why is it that you have to be the one who’s family is shattered or that you the one that continues to battle cancer and bear the chains that never sheds any light? Why does grief consume you while the whole world basks in happiness and light? The answer is testing.
Paul says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.” Each test that we go through God has already foreseen and determined that you have the ability to endure such trials. If what was said at the beginning of this is true, and that it is the nature of the Christian, it is the blessedness of his faith and his gift to endure sufferings, then the weight of your trial shows the weight of your faith. The reason you continue to go through such dangerous trials is because God has deemed that you have the faith to endure this, while your fellow Christian may not. In fact, if what Paul says in Colossians 1:24 is true then as we suffer, we fill up what is lacking in Christ’s affliction by showing the world Christ’s sufferings through our own. The primary reason we suffer is to show the world the gospel by showing them how Christ suffered for the salvation of all, we are a mirror of that every time we go through affliction. We “preach the gospel” and the greater our suffering, the louder the message of the gospel rings.
Much more can be said about this, but the primary reason I felt the need to share is to show that in your sufferings oh Christian, do not lose hope. You are showing the world the stripes of Jesus, the nails in his hands in feet, the wound in his side through your hope in difficult times. The reason you have to bear heavier burdens is because God has deemed you a louder preacher for the time being. That is what we find joy in. The temptation here however would be that we find pride in being louder proclaimers, I would caution you not to fall into pride in this, but to bear your burden well.
Also a challenge comes with this; I believe one of the reasons we in the west don’t suffer as our fellow brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution is because we are not strong enough in our faith to suffer that much. For if we were all strong enough, I would venture to say that most of us would be thrown in the lion’s cages, nailed to crosses, exiled from our homes as the early church did, and the reason we do not now is not because of God’s favor in the “blessed land of America,” but because of our weak faith. If not here in America, then our strong faith would drive us to the front line of physical warfare to be missionaries in dangerous countries. However, we are not yet able to handle such persecution, and therefore God spares us of it.
How do we respond? Bear your burden and bear it well. Rejoice that we get to proclaim the gospel through suffering and know that with every illness, broken relationship, sleepless night, insult, etc., if you show hope in Christ in the midst of these, you have preached Jesus, and in that we rejoice.