Suffering is not something that we like to experience. In fact, suffering is not something that we even like to talk about. Without the Gospel, we are forced to think that suffering is something to be feared, or that we should avoid suffering and chase after comfort as much as possible. This worldly view doesn’t work. Suffering is a reality in the lives of all people in some way, and it is important to view it through the lens of the Gospel and Jesus Christ.
To consider how we should view our suffering, I think it is important to look at Philippians 1:27-30. Here Paul is addressing the church in Philippi, about the topic to “live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” or, broken down a bit, “live your life in a way that shows that you see the Gospel as being something of GREAT worth.” Paul then goes on in verse 29 to say that we should view our sufferings as a gracious gift from God, and he goes so far as to compare the gift of our sufferings to the gift of belief in Jesus Christ. So to tie that together, Paul is saying that if we, as Christians, truly view the gospel as being supremely valuable, then we should live our lives – specifically in our sufferings – in a way that shows that we are thankful and satisfied with God’s providence in our lives. He is saying that when we work through our suffering in a way that demonstrates that we trust God and want to bring glory to Him, it shows that we view the gospel as being supremely worthy.
To consider what the purpose of our suffering is, I want to look at Colossians 1:24. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of his body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” Read in light of a similar passage in Philippians 2:30, it is not that we are finishing the “suffering work” for Christ, but instead that when we suffer, we are a visible representation of Christ and His suffering, displaying the Good News. In this way, people may see us suffer, but at the same time see that we are joyful and praising God even in spite of our sufferings. Then, as people see our sufferings, they will be drawn to Christ through seeing the display of Good News in us. In essence, we suffer in order that the Gospel may be known further, and so that the glory and fame of Jesus Christ might be known better.
Do you think it’s possible that we often “waste” our suffering? Is it possible that God gives us our trials as something that we are to steward? Do we view our sufferings as something that we can use to glorify God? Have we considered the ways that we can help one another specifically because we have suffered or endured a certain trial? God has a bigger plan; that through our trials, we would know Him more, and make Him and His glory more known to those around us. Don’t waste the opportunity!