An Honest Question
The topic and issue of suffering isn’t generally avoided in the church today (thankfully). Pastors, Christian leaders, and authors make a firm point to not only say that suffering isn’t optional in the Christian life, but also to give counsel for those in the midst of suffering.
But an honest question that every Christian should ask themselves is this:
How am I suffering?
2 Types of Suffering
Let me split up suffering into two general categories. One form of suffering is the affliction and pain that’s caused by situations that have nothing to do with a Christian’s faith in Jesus. This category holds the majority of our suffering in the world – everything from experiencing horrific events to having a headache.
The other category is the opposite of the first. It’s for the suffering that includes every affliction, pain, and hurt that’s directly caused by a Christian’s faith in Jesus.
What’s interesting is that much of the current church’s efforts are put towards programs and sermon series that deal with the first form of suffering. It’s not unusual to see addiction recovery groups, divorce groups, marriage conferences, and parenting resources bursting out of church doors and lining Christian websites.
I think churches should provide help for those suffering in these areas, and I’m incredibly thankful for what I see. Yet, all this shows me is that those in the church suffer in the exact same way that the world does. This suffering isn’t usually a direct result of faith in Christ, but a result of being a broken human. Suffering in this way can be of huge benefit to the Christian (think of James 1:2).
Suffering as Result of Our Faith
But I want to point out that much of the suffering that’s referred to in the Bible is not this type of suffering. It’s suffering that’s a direct result of one’s faith in Jesus.
Is your suffering any different than your atheist neighbour’s? Your New Age barista’s? Or your agnostic sister’s?
It’s not wrong if it’s similar (you’re both human), but as Christians we should also be experiencing the latter form of suffering – suffering that’s a direct result from your faith in Christ.
I fear that many in the church today (including myself) are merely suffering as the world suffers, and not in the way that we read about in the Bible. When was the last time you were insulted because you stood up for a biblical truth? When was the last time you were threatened or beat up because you were a Christian?
Brothers and sisters in other parts of the world are experiencing this, but many that live in the more “western” countries do not.
Why do I fear this? Why am I concerned that we’re not facing this kind of suffering? It’s because I think we accommodate to our culture way too often – many times subconsciously.
If Paul were transferred into your community today, how long do you think it would take until you heard about him? How long until he would be kicked out of churches, and even the community? What about if Peter were here today, or even Jesus?
I ask, How are you suffering? to motivate you to consider the ways in which you are afflicted and are in pain.
Taking an inventory of your suffering can very well open up your eyes to areas in your life in which you’ve been accommodating to culture. If that’s the case, don’t fret. Repent, and move forward.
Let’s not only suffer as the world suffers, but also as the church – that is, suffering as a direct result of our faith in Christ.