Live Long Enough & You'll Experience Suffering
I personally tend to never stray far from considering the topic of suffering. This may seem morbid, but the truth is that Jesus promises suffering in this life for those that follow him (Luke 9:23). I suppose the other reality of suffering is that due to living in a fallen and broken world, it's not a matter of "if" but "when". Live long enough and you'll experience suffering. Whether it's personal or with those around you that you love; suffering is a part of this life. So, when it comes to the topic of suffering, my experience has been that it's far better to have a good theological understanding underneath you before you experience it, rather than trying to get a hold of one in the midst of it.
The "Gold" in Hebrews 12:3-17
There are several passages that I go back to when considering the topic of suffering. Hebrews 12:3-17 is such a passage. I thought I'd just share in brief the "gold" found in these 15 verses.
- vv.3-4: Endure suffering through the empowerment that comes by considering the Suffering One - Jesus. Suffering is best understood at the cross and can give us right perspective in our suffering. Jesus is the one who endured the worst of sufferings in the place of those who actually deserved it.
- vv.5-11: Endure suffering because it's discipline from our Heavenly Father. Suffering for Christians is to be seen as discipline from our Heavenly Father. The Father disciplines those whom He loves and His discipline gives evidence that we are His sons and daughters. There's good purpose behind the Father's discipline – he wants us to share in His holiness. Finally, all discipline will seem painful rather than pleasant when we're in the midst of it, but it will eventually result in "the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those that have been trained by it."
- vv.12-17: Because suffering is discipline from our Heavenly Father, and it is meant for our good, we're encouraged to endure through suffering to the end of this life. We're also called to pursue peace, holiness and encourage all those around us to persevere as well. We're to guard against the "root of bitterness", sexual immorality, and a godless attitude.
How do you approach suffering? What you think about or consider when you're suffering? What do you think principally about your suffering? As Christian's, if our suffering is discipline from our Heavenly Father, what does it cause you to do?
Hebrews 12:3-17 is very instructive when we consider the category of suffering. I praise God for preserving it in our Bibles! I pray that reviewing scripture like this before suffering will enable us to suffer well when we're in the midst of it. I pray that God would give you and I grace to recall this passage and apply it through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit. Most of all, I pray that our Heavenly Father will give us more and more grace to endure suffering!