How to Suffer Well
Several years ago, I broke my foot in five places. During the yearlong recovery, as I delved into the Word, the Lord changed my perspective on suffering.
The Privilege of Suffering
During my recovery, the Lord ministered to me through several Scriptures. The first passage was Colossians 1:24, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body.” I couldn’t believe I had never noticed this verse before. I was encouraged to see that the sufferings we go through are somehow accomplishing a “filling up” of Christ’s affliction. I had never thought of suffering in this light. Additionally, Philippians 1:29 notes, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.” Just like God is gracious to give us faith to believe, he also gives us, or grants us, the grace to suffer for him! These two verses changed my perspective, allowing me to view suffering as a privilege granted by God.
Right before I broke my foot, Pastor Nate Irwin—one of our pastors at College Park Church—preached a sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, teaching how important it is to “carry about as precious in our bodies the death of Jesus.” As Nate shared in his message, “God’s definitive act of salvation occurred through the dying of his Son, it should not be a surprise that the saving gospel of the crucified Jesus should reach the nations and that they would be discipled only through the dying of His servants (Bauckham).”
This thought of carrying Jesus’s suffering with us is so beautiful. Do you ever consider how precious Jesus’s suffering was? Do you make connections to the suffering you encounter? Do you view suffering as a privilege granted by God?
Identifying with Christ through Suffering
Another verse that the Lord used to minister to me was Philippians 3:7-10. For me, this verse drove home the purpose of suffering:
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so somehow attain resurrection from the dead.” I was struck by the phrase “participation in his sufferings.”
The Lord showed me that each time we suffer is an opportunity to bond with him, like two friends who bond and empathize with each other over similar experiences. This thought radically changed the way I view suffering. I learned that during heartache or struggle, we should ask the Lord to help us identify more with him through it.
As I struggled through months of bed rest, therapy, and learning to walk again, I asked the Lord what he wanted me to learn and how to identify with him through my suffering. He showed me that because of him, suffering can bring glorious results as I become more like him—caring more about him than the things of this world.
Because of Jesus’s death on the cross, we can be at peace with God through salvation and he can heal us in our suffering, while he teaches us and draws us nearer to his heart. Only through the suffering of Jesus, can God heal our wounds from suffering—what a beautiful thought!
In my experience, when our hearts are broken open, they are broken free. Our deepest wounds of suffering bring depth to our relationship with Jesus, and we become a sign of his love when we share with others the same comfort Christ gave us.
The world needs to see people who are suffering and yet rejoicing and growing in their relationship with Jesus. Timothy asks us to join with him in suffering for the gospel (2 Tim 1:8). Will you join him?