“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:17-18)
Perhaps the greatest tragedy within the Church at this present hour is the complete and utter denial of the Christian’s call to suffer. If we are to believe the teaching coming from most pulpits (and virtually all of the “Bible teaching” being presented on Television), we would conclude that it is never the will of God for His people to endure hardship and suffering. The liberal believes that much of the suffering and hardship of church members is the result of gross social injustice and oppression, and that more programs need to be implemented in order to relieve these inequalities. The fundamentalist, on the other hand, is more often than not taught that it is the error of the one enduring the hardship who has brought the condition upon themselves and that a little more faith on their part would surely alleviate the situation.
Why is it that so often our first reaction to suffering is that something is wrong when the Lord Jesus Himself told us that we would face tribulation? The Apostle Peter urged the believer to not consider the fiery trials of life as strange, but something to be expected and even a cause for rejoicing (1 Pet. 4:12-13). Even so, the hardships that the Christian faces are usually seen as something highly undesirable, something that we seek to be out from under as quickly as possible, and, in the viewpoint of a great many church-goers, a possible indication of something wrong in the inward life of the particular person. Many sermons are preached about how to rid ourselves of trouble (or avoid trouble altogether) – we must pray more, study more, give more, fellowship more…sin less – but it is the rare message that instructs the child of God how to patiently endure the call to suffer for our Lord’s sake (Phil. 1:29).
To “rejoice in suffering” and to “praise God in the midst of persecution” is a concept that is completely foreign in an age where comfort and ease are are the chief goals of most people. Difficulty is avoided at all costs and hardship is shunned wherever possible in favor of the path of least resistance. Yet the road that follows the will of God often leads straight through the desert and dry places. Tribulation will surely come to all of us and, more often than not, the closer we walk with God the rockier the trail becomes.
We must never conclude that God delights in our suffering since He calls us into them. God is certainly no sadist; the Lord is easily touched with the feelings of our infirmities and temptations (Heb. 4:15). Neither are we instructed to be masochistic, enjoying the pain that comes our way. But we are admonished to see the big picture, to see things from God’s point of view, and realize that the sufferings of this present hour endure but for a moment.
God allows trials and hardships to come upon every believer, accomplishing His purposes in ways we do not always undertsand, and we do well to remember that the sufferings we face in this life are not even in the same ball park as the glories that await us in the next. When we put all of the sufferings we endured during this life up against all of the blessed glories that God has in store for us in the next, they will look very small and insignificant indeed. As the mother who endures the pains of child-birth for a few hours is rewarded with a child to love for a lifetime, so it is with the Christian whose sufferings will end in the blink of an eye and whose rewards will endure for eternity.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,