Php 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
In the Western culture the thought of suffering seems to be a topic that we leave for others to discuss. Feeling good, getting what we want, and having fun are more our style. How many times have you gone to a church or a social event because it was going to be 'FUN.' Fun and excitement rule our thoughts and lives. For the most part we are exempt from famine, oppression, and other disasters. We have a few earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornado's, but the images just seem to be a blip on our television screen and we move on to the next 15 second clip. Then it is off to sports and entertainment...
I was under the impression early on in my Christian walk that if I didn't have hope in my heart, a skip in my step, and a smile on my face I wasn't being a very good Christian. But living behind a mask is quite difficult, so trying to keep people out of my inner bubble became more and more complicated. Nobody told me that when I became a Christian I was going to still experience great loss, hardships, and opposition to my faith.
It wasn't until I hit a brick wall and found myself staring into the eyes of the Savior directly that I realized that suffering wasn't only a part of life, but it was a huge part of our Christian walk.
This verse in Philippians tells us to not only that we are to believe in Him, but to suffer for His sake as well. Christ died the most horrendous death imaginable, and for us to think that we would be exempt from suffering is, well, kind of presumptuous. If we are following in the steps of our Lord then we will experience trials and suffering.
James tells us to count it all joy when we meet trials of many kinds (Jas 1:2-3) and the apostle Paul says in his letter to Timothy to "share in the suffering as a good soldier of Christ." (2Tim 2:3) All but one of the twelve apostles was martyred and numerous leaders and lay people throughout the Bible call out to the Lord because of their personal struggles and difficulties.
2Pe 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,
There is hope in the midst of suffering. When a loved one dies unexpectedly, downsizing causes you to lose your job, or your hopes and dreams seem crushed... God cares about you. It may feel like He is out there somewhere looking down or maybe even ignoring us while we suffer here on earth, but that is far from true. He cares about each and every step we take and is using it for our good purpose and His eternal glory. The key is to have faith. Faith that God loves us so much that He allowed His only Son to die for our sins. Faith that God loves us so much He will not allow us to keep walking in sin and will correct us and show us the right path. Faith that when we are burdened by the loss of a loved one He will never leave us or forsake us. When life seems too difficult and the trials are coming faster than we can bear... He will take care of us.
2Co 1:8-11 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
If we keep an eternal perspective with the end in mind rather than the immediate, we can begin to believe the promise that He will deliver us over and over again from the trials and tribulations we encounter. The Bible doesn't say it is going to be easy, but it does say that He will strengthen us, allow us to finish the race strong, and be there to welcome us home when we endure to the end.
Lord, thank you for the promise and hope that you will strengthen us when we are experiencing difficulties in our life.