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 oppressive groups or regimes and the unjust imprisonment of Christians and ministers in other countries 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 some inherent suffering.
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 the untarnished image of His Son, and that transformation process is never easy. 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, weaknesses, and faith. For some, these internal battles are only won after 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 indeed our solace and strength, it is our lot as humans to experience some of the sufferings of our species. If it rains on planet earth, Christians get wet too.
Finally, there are numerous cultural and relational persecutions that accompany faith in Jesus Christ. These persecutions can range from mild ridicule to outright hostility, but whether they are mild or severe, these persecutions are actually a cause for honor. Jesus said persecutions are cause for rejoicing; His disciples said that it was an honor to suffer in Jesus’ name, and the Apostle Paul said that persecutions could become pathways to greater glory.
We certainly do not need to seek out persecution. Rather, we are told to live as peaceably in our world as possible (Romans 12:18). However, when suffering finds us—internally or externally—we must embrace it and use it as an opportunity to worship, change, and be transformed.
“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Ephesians 6:24)