Christian suffering is not limited to the extreme cases that we hear about in the media. Certainly, the horrific persecutions of Christians (and other religious adherents) by groups like ISIS, and the unjust imprisonment of ministers like Pastor Saeed Abedini in Iran can make the sufferings of our context seem negligible at best. However, regardless of the relative ease or discomfort of one’s position in life, Christianity contains suffering in its essence.
First and foremost, there is the unseen, internal suffering of the cross, as God inexorably calls us to ever-increasing levels of Christ-likeness. Although God loves and accepts us exactly as we are, He is committed to transforming us into His untarnished image and plan for our life. Like a battling chrysalis prior to its release from the cocoon, it is with struggle and striving that we wage solitary battles with our vulnerabilities and temptations. For some, these internal battles are only won after enduring protracted seasons of pain.
Beyond the unseen, internal sufferings of the life of Christian discipleship, we Christians are also prone to the general, universal grief and woes of humanity. Although God is our source of protection, comfort, and strength, it is our lot as humans to experience some of the sufferings of our race. If it rains on planet earth, Christians get wet too.
Finally, there are numerous cultural persecutions that accompany faith in Jesus Christ, from mild ridicule to outright hostility.
- Jesus said these persecutions are cause for rejoicing!
- His disciples said they were honored to suffer in His name.
- The Apostle Paul said that persecutions are pathways to greater levels of glory.
Regardless of the form it takes or its degree of intensity, there is a measure of persecution that accompanies our followership of Jesus Christ. It has always been this way and it always will be, and for those whose hearts have been truly captivated by Him, suffering for His cause is an honor.
We don’t need to seek it out. Indeed, we are told to live as peaceably in our world as possible (Romans 12:18), but when suffering finds us—internally or externally—let’s embrace it as true devotees of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Ephesians 6:24)