Suffering

On Mondays at lunch, we fast and pray – for men to become godly leaders in the church and in establishing families; for soft hearts that are responsive to the Lord; and for strong, Christ-centered marriages for those who desire them.

My daily prayer usually follows this loose outline:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for this day, for my salvation, for providing for my needs (please continue to do so), and for my friends and family. Please keep us safe and healthy.

Please give healing and comfort to [list of individuals]. Please provide for and bless so-and-so on the mission field. Please lead unsaved friends, family members, and coworkers to come to know You.

Help me to be more like You.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Something I recently read from Lisa Chan has made me stop and reflect on what I pray. She wrote:

“I am so quick to say that I want to be Christ-like. My mind immediately thinks of His love, kindness, healings, and teachings…But I am struck by everything else it means to be Christ-like: humility, sacrifice, forgiveness, and suffering. These are things that are hard to exemplify, things that we often avoid.”

I have a very hard time thinking about suffering or putting myself in situations that might cause discomfort or uncertainty or failure. As my prayer shows, I want God to keep me and those close to me happy and healthy. I want to be loving and kind. I want God to be glorified through how “good” I am and for Him to bless me all the time as a result of my “clean living.” In short, I pray for comfort and things that will make me happy– the antithesis of sacrifice.

But if I’m praying and called to be more like Christ, that means I have to be willing to accept suffering – hope deferred, rejection by others, loneliness, emotional and even physical pain and persecution (as so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are experiencing!) – in humility and forgiveness, bringing glory to the Father (Philippians 2: 6-11).

I should not fear or resent hardship because Jesus calls believers to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). If Jesus calls me to something, then He’ll see me through it, whether or not the journey is pleasant or comfortable for me.

I know – easier said than done!

So often I make myself a martyr of my circumstances, claiming I am suffering for Christ because life is hard, God isn’t answering prayer as I would like, needs aren’t being met. But it’s not true spiritual sacrifice unless I face these challenges in hope, in humility, and in faith with the goal of bringing glory to God and becoming more like Jesus (Romans 12:1-2).

How is your approach to singleness, that problem at work, or that difficult family situation different from those of the unbelievers around you? How are you using it as a testimony of your faith in Christ? Do you suffer for Christ, or do you just suffer?

Will you join me this week in a time of confession for resenting those “hard things” God gives each one of us? Let’s also pray for courage to be bold in living our lives in obedience to Him – no matter the consequences. He redeems our suffering by using it to draw us (and others) to Himself.

Love to you,

Emily

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2 Responses to Suffering

  1. larryzb says:

    Suffering – the constant in human experience in all times and in all cultures. Perhaps (and hopefully), our souls are created for a higher purpose than suffering, but some times that is hard to see in this miserable, fallen and unjust world.

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