I remember the day it first surprised me, the way Peter and Paul and John responded to suffering.
I was reading the book of Acts, and Peter and John had just been flogged, beaten, bloodied. They were rejoicing, praising God in their suffering, almost for their suffering, they were thanking God that they were counted worthy to Suffer! Paul did the exact same thing when he was imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, stoned nearly dead. He rejoiced! He praised God! He counted it an honor to be like Jesus!
Wasn't that was Jesus said though, "Take up your Cross and follow me?" The Cross was an instrument of torture, of suffering, and lead to death. The command to follow with your Cross is a command to walk behind Jesus, suffering with His sufferings, sharing in His pain.
This was so different from the way I feel about suffering. In my flesh I want to run from it! This message continued as I read the Gospels and the Letters to the new, baby Christians in the Church. The message was one of Christian Suffering, and Suffering Well as Christians.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you~ Peter.
For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly ~Peter.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus ~ Paul.
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry ~ Paul
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed ~ Paul
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing~ James
The memory of this moment returned the day I received Suffering Well: The Predictable Surprise of Christian Suffering from Cross Focused Reviews.
Paul Grimmond was surprised the same way. He did not intend to write this book, he was writing a Bible study on Suffering when he found that the verses about suffering say something startling. They were saying that we are called to suffer as Christians, even because we are Christians.
When you begin to drink in these verses and feed your soul on them, you begin to see the culture is telling us a very different story about suffering, one that has tainted the well of Truth.
From these verses was born Suffering Well, a book that calls us back to God's Word alone as our definition and answer for our suffering. This book is clear, concise and compassionate. Suffering Well guides us back to where the answers God has chosen to give us are found: Scripture.
There is so much to this book. I could try to explain this book, instead I will tell you to read this book, and I will give you a few quotes from it.
"The Problem with the ideas presented in this book is that they are so quick to read over, yet they take so long to take root in oursouls," writes the author Paul Grimmond. "The great New Testament problem of suffering is not so much that all will suffer the pains and tribulations of living in a fallen world, but that suffering is guaranteed for those who follow a suffering Lord."
This will be very hard for us if we think suffering means God has stopped loving us, or is punishing us in every pain. The New Testament offers us the answer to the fear that suffering means abandonment by our Father in Heaven. The New Testament sets us straight here. They rejoiced because God loved them and counted them worthy to suffer.
"Why does Paul talk about the certainty of God's Love even in the face of death? It is because belonging to Christ is a death sentence. Becoming a Christian means taking up your Cross and following Christ...we will only be glorified with Christ if we also suffer with Him."
That is suffering as a Christian, there is also suffering for being a Christian.
"If we belong to Jesus, then people will treat us like they treated Jesus. There can be no other expectation in a world marked by sinful rebellion. If we genuinely want to speak the truth in love and live like our Lord Jesus lived, then people will hate us for it."
This is why a theology of Christian Suffering is so important, so that we can encourage one another to keep following in the midst of the pain. The grind of ridicule and perverse revilement can dull a Christians Holy zeal and drive their witness underground faster than outright hate and violence can. In a situation driven by "peer pressure" like a school or a workplace Christians of all ages will be tempted to give up their profession to avoid shame.
"We must let the New Testament teaching about shame and revilement take its rightful place in our encouragement of one another, so that we will have the strength to resist temptation when it comes our way...The fact that our suffering is less physical than others does not mean it is less important or real. We must encourage one another not to give in to shame, and we must ask God's Spirit to enable us to live faithfully as servants of our crucified King."
And then there is the comfort we need to minister to each other.
"When we get hurt for doing the right thing, the comfort of the Gospel is that the pain is a sign of who we truly are."
This is the spirit that made the Church turn the world upside down!
"So we need to remember that the maligning, revilement, ridicule, persecution and even death that may come as a result are not terrors to be avoided, but signs from God to be received with joy."
And the final piece of the puzzle is Hope, Biblical Hope."If we are to Suffer Well, we must remind ourselves of God's Promises fulfilled in Christ. We must teach each other about the importance of the Resurrection and the future that God has in store for us. It is only as the things of this world are dimmed by the Glory of God that we will be able to live and suffer for Christ." I am looking forward to sharing this book, now dogeared and marked with pens highlighting paragraphs with someone who needs these words.
I was blessed to receive my copy of Suffering Well from Cross Focused Reviews.
A Wonderful Interview Here. Author Talks - Episode 8 - Paul Grimmond | Bible Geek Gone Wild