Suffer With Christ
…we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
– Romans 8:17
Where do children want to suffer? When they are in pain, who do they want to be with? If your home is anything like mine, they come running for the closest parent.
They come with their blankets, their stuffed animals, hands in the air, wanting to be held. You tend to them saying things like, “Oh no! Let’s get some ice for that… let’s wash it off and get a bandaid… I know it hurts, but it's going to be ok.” They come, because they trust you to care for them. They feel a real experience of comfort just being in your presence, snuggling on your lap. There is a feeling of protection and provision. It is a safe place to hurt.
Now, when you are suffering under the trials of this world, and when you are the one in deep pain, who do you suffer with? Where do you want to be and who do you go to? I hope it is with Christ.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:16-17
When you are hurting, are you going to kick against your Father in the suffering and run to something else? Something that promises comfort but can never deliver. Or are you going to cling to him like he is all you have when it happens? Are you going to suffer with him, in his strength, in his care, in his comfort, under his watch, in his presence? Or alone? Are you going to trust yourself, or trust him? Is your suffering going to point others to Christ and a solid hope within you, or is it going to point to you and some shifting and fragile belief that hopefully it’ll be ok?
There is an unshakable rock to suffer on. He can keep the winds and waves from overtaking your heart and soul. And his name is Jesus Christ. When we suffer with him, we show ourselves to be true children of God.
The Two Storms We Suffer Through
When looking at the trials and suffering that the Scriptures speak of believers going through, it is often broken down into two categories. Suffering that brings correction and suffering that brings perfection, and both should cause us to cling to Christ.
Something I want my kids to remember when they are older is that I loved them through their discipline. Anytime my kids need a spanking for disobeying, I take them into another room and ask them why this is about to happen. Why are they going to get a spanking? I’m looking for a confession from them. I’m looking for an expression of their disobedience. Then the spanking will take place, and the tears come. At that point I hold them till they cry out the pain with me. I just finished confronting their disobedience, and have inflicted pain on their little backside, and then I want to help them through the recovery from that. I want to leave no doubt in their mind afterwards that I love them. I do this, because I believe it is what God does with us.
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.” – Hebrews 12:5-6
As Christians, sometimes we say things like, “God help me get out of this sin I’m stuck in!” However, the reality is more like, “God, get the sin I’m stuck in out of me!” We all need God’s work in our lives to perfect us, however it is rarely a painless process. Think of taking splinters out of your child’s hand or foot. Usually, they are screaming at the top of their lungs, and you're saying things like, “We have to get it out… it can get infected… I know it hurts… I’m trying to get it out as quickly as I can… trust me, we have to get out.” Maybe you get ice to try and numb it, you give them their blanket, you hold them, maybe you sing to them. You do everything you can to offer comfort for them though the necessity of the removal. You do everything except leave the splinter in. Why? Because that would be the most unloving thing to do. What you really want, is for them to trust that what is happening is the best thing for them.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:2-4
When you really boil it all down, whether your suffering is for correction, or perfection, it’s goal is a stronger connection. A stronger connection with Christ as you suffer with him.
It’s All About Faith
When you suffer clinging to Christ, you show a belief that what God says about your situation is true. The location of your heart when you suffer is a direct reflection of your faith. Reality is not defined by what you feel about it, or what others say about your pain. It is about what God says. And that is where you can be sorrowful, and always rejoicing, when you are suffering with him. Because it really does hurt and we feel the sorrow of this world, and God really does love you and is working for your good. There is joy to be had in that. Your pain is not pointless.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your [tested and proven] faith, the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9
The words, “if necessary” are so critical to me in this verse. The various trials that grieve us, though we may never fully understand it till our life is over, are not the careless mistakes of a God who has no control over his creation. They are necessary and critical to connecting us to our savior and making us more like him.
There is a unique heart and soul connection that takes place in letting your children suffer with you, because it is a shared pain. We know it it because we have experienced it, and we feel it with them because we love them. Think of how Christ lived on this earth and experienced our pain, and he can now feel it with you. He doesn’t stand as an emotionless stoic as you suffer. He picks up the humble that come to him and weeps with them. He binds up our wounds. His discipline flows out of love to his children, not anger. He is the perfect high priest to serve over us.
So ask yourself, what do people think when they see you, a Christian, suffer? Is their heart filled with sorrow and joy at the sight of your good Father caring for you?
Suffer with Him, receive comfort, and glorify your Father in it all!