“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” II Timothy 3:12.
Been thinking a lot about suffering and persecution lately.
I suppose this comes as a reaction to the postmodern Gospel presentation that it could not possibly EVER be God’s will for His people to suffer. He’s a God of love, He wants what’s best for His children, and that most certainly must line up with what I consider best for me, right?
But, as I walk with God, I have to confess He scares me. Because He is not afraid to let me suffer. Trials, tribulations, persecutions…these are all par for the course in walking with my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Yes, being in His will is ULTIMATELY the most glorious, best place to be…but the safest? Hmmmm…depends on your definition of safe…
God is so much bigger than this narrow life we live. His perspective so much broader. Suffering does not scare Him or intimidate Him, and that reality certainly produces fear and concern in my heart. Sometimes I secretly pray, just between Him and me, “Lord, I know You promised not to give me more than I can bear, but please, I don’t want to know how much I can bear!” I feel embarrassed to admit that, because I know He is good. I know He is in control; I know that nothing can happen to me except that He specifically allows it. But Wow! It scares me to conjure up images of what I can endure through His power and presence at work in my heart and life! And, truthfully, many times I don’t want to know what He is capable of walking me through…
All of these thoughts have been bubbling away in my soul because I just find that so many times we as Christians use Jeremiah 29:11 as our catchall that God wouldn’t possibly allow us to suffer. We blithely assume that this life, His will is all about US…not HIM and HIS glory. We forget that He is the Head, and that we are the body. We take direction from Him, not the other way around.
Meditating on Isaiah 53:10-11 has really opened my eyes to a new side of Yahweh…He is the God Who is SO BIG, SO POWERFUL, SO MIGHTY, SO TRANSCENDENT that even sorrow and suffering cannot hinder His plans and purposes. Indeed, they are literally tools in His hands that serve to accomplish all that He has in mind.
Check these verses out (Isaiah 53:10-11):
“Yet was the Lord’s will to crush Him (referring to Jesus) and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand. After He (Jesus) has suffered, He will see the light of life and be satisfied…”
If God the Father did not consider suffering inappropriate for His one and only Son, how can I expect anything different? The Passion of the Christ has meant salvation for me. The suffering of my Lord has opened the door for me to enter into eternal relationship with Him.
In reference to a thorn in his flesh, the Apostle Paul writes, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
And I think that summarizes it all, really. For Christ’s sake, we can endure all things, because in our weakness, His strength shines through, and ultimately, He receives all the glory, all the power, and all of the praise.
And, I might add, there is rest and peace in realizing that to walk with Christ will involve suffering and persecution. Suddenly, striving ceases. Bad things can and do happen to faithful people, but ultimately, God is in control, and we can rest assured that He, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is able and willing to lead us through until we see Him face to face.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “When Jesus bids a man, He bids him come die.”