My comfortable life is in jeopardy.
In Christianity there’s this often-overlooked, seldom-preached, rarely-lived theology of suffering. In the Bible it’s sometimes called the “fellowship of suffering” or “sharing in Christ’s suffering.” Faithful Bible readers — I’d consider myself one — know this, maybe even have a verse or two on suffering memorized.
I would agree, most days, that Christians will have to suffer. That Christians do suffer. But I don’t expect this, or embrace it, or seek it, in my own life.
After all, nobody really wants to suffer, right? I’ll say it: I don’t want to suffer. But does that mean I’m rejecting a part of Christ? And can I reject a part of Him and not reject the whole?
Here’s another confession: I avoid suffering whenever possible. This shows itself in little things like holding my son at arm’s length because I don’t want his grimy, supper-slathered hands touching my clothes. (Shallow and vain, don’t you think?) That’s hardly suffering, but in this land of comfort, anything that disrupts the status quo or the appearance of having it all together, we count as suffering.
My attitude when things go wrong indicates how I view suffering. God, heal my back. Lord, make my son’s fever go away. Jesus, provide for this need. Much rarer is the prayer during suffering, Lord, make me more like You through this. Teach me, Lord. Show me something new about Yourself.
I feel bombarded lately with images of suffering.
Like this article I read on human trafficking. (Warning: It’s a disturbing read. I am saddened, disgusted and longing for a world where this is NO ONE’s normal.)
Or this Facebook post from an AP reporter in Somalia.
And the catalyst to this self-analyzation: I read a book about adoption. (Come back Monday, Aug. 1 for the review.) My husband and I once considered adoption, before we were married or had our two kids. It’s still in the back of our minds, but after reading this book, I wanted to run from the possibility. I don’t need family life to be harder, I thought. I don’t want my marriage to suffer because of tension over an adopted child’s needs. I don’t want my children to feel overlooked or neglected.
And the “I” list went on and on.
But the families who shared their stories said they wouldn’t trade all the difficulties, the suffering, for the child who was now a part of their lives.
Suffering does not go unrewarded.
In the grand scheme of things, I have not suffered much. But the times I have suffered have also been times of deepened spiritual awareness. Close times with God. Renewed human relationships. Visible expressions of glory not my own.
I don’t know the future, what sufferings I will or won’t experience.
It’s naive to think I will never suffer, or never again suffer, so I’m praying now for the strength and grace to endure whatever form suffering takes.
And because I don’t know how to end this ramble, I leave you with a song I can’t get out my head.