Suffering

One commonality to all men and women in life is that life is difficult—regardless of where you come from or who your parents are.  The factors that play into the difficulty are many, but it is, nevertheless, unavoidable.  


Jesus said, “In this life you will have tribulation.”  Why, then, are we surprised when it happens to us?  If we read the new testament, suffering in its many contexts and definitions is referenced over 150 times.  Peter talks about it at length in his first epistle.  17 verses reference suffering in that book alone.  Suffering is a major topic and a major component of the Christian faith.  Philippians 1:29 states, “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.”

But we don’t want to suffer.  We really do not want to suffer.  Suffering is not cool.  And what does suffering for the Christ even look like?  We live in a country where Christianity is common. We don’t feel persecuted on a daily basis.  We can freely practice.  And yet, the world and Christianity are not supposed to be friends.  They aren’t even supposed to look alike.  Christians, like the Israelites before, are called to set themselves a part from the world and represent, through love, what the world is missing in Christ.  That, all too often, is not put into practice.  Therefore, depending on how we’re living our lives, suffering for the sake of Christ may not be a common experience.  How am I possibly suffering for his sake?  How do we suffer?  Below are some examples:

  • Unmet relational needs: acceptance, affirmation, validation.
  • Unmet Physical Needs: finances, job loss, homelessness.
  • Relationship Issues: conflict, distance, taking emotional risks with a spouse.
  • Hurts/Wounds: neglect, abuse, betrayal, loss.
  • Mental Health issues: stress, anxiety, depression, chronic mental disabilities like bipolar disorder
  • Natural Disasters
  • Natural consequences: from poor decisions/actions
  • Spiritual Challenges: conviction, discipline, persecution, temptation, denying one’s self.
  • Physical Stressors: exercise, dieting, illness/disease, injury, addiction.
  • Hard work. 
  • Anything that is difficult or challenging; any sacrifice we make.

Virtually every aspect of our lives revolves around the avoidance of suffering.  Everything that, by nature, is hard, has been marketed as being easy if you simply buy this thing, or do this thing.  We live in a society that cannot stand being bored.  Only losers are bored.  Believe it or not, boredom is a form of suffering.  It’s one of the major addictive triggers along with hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness.  Addiction is an unhealthy form of avoidance or escape.  We don’t read the news because we want to be informed.  We read the news because we want to be entertained—and there is a news agency that floats the boat of any personality style out there.  Sit still, for 5 minutes, and see how hard it is.  Most people think that’s a stupid idea—sitting still—who does that?  "I got way too much on my plate right now to just sit still.  What a waste of time.”  No, try it.  Sit still for 5 minutes.  Put a timer on the smartphone you have that you can’t stop checking every 2 seconds.  What might you discover in that 5 minutes of sitting still besides the fact that it’s a lot harder to do than it sounds?  If you felt bored in that 5 minutes, or you felt any sense of discomfort, you’ve proven my point: we do not like to suffer, even in the slightest bit.

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