“God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well.”
~Philippians 1:29 (NRSV)
Before we get started we need to be clear about suffering. It isn’t as if God provides the suffering, but God does provide the power to suffer it well; for him. This is beyond stoicism.
Now that the above has been mentioned we can see that the gifts of faith and suffering are the very tools for enduring life in the sort of joy the world may find perverse.
But a reaction of seeming perversity cuts the world off to a vision of the secret of life. In this life there will be suffering, so there is no point in not enduring it. This life requires us to be a warrior. But warriors are often misunderstood.
The warrior, in this way at least, has learned to reverse his or her fear; to gain energy from it. The adept public speaker knows how to use their nerves; they have tapped into this warrior energy. We can easily say the apostle Paul had this energy and it compelled his ministry beyond many fears to shrink or abandon it.
Gospel Life And Warrior Life
This Gospel life, the commitment to live as a disciple of Jesus, is likened very much to the warrior life. It is hard for us, in our day-to-day suburban lives, to understand how much plain joy the warrior has in battleground fighting. He or she enjoys their opponent just as their opponent enjoys them. The battleground experience defines them, individually and collectively, as warriors, one and the same.
It is only when we step into this warrior life, with the belief it will be good for us, that we begin to understand how we can be joyful in it.
The battleground is our suffering, whatever that may be. And everyone has suffering; it may be to varying degrees; everyone has concerns of existence, pain to deal with, battles over thoughts and feelings, and uncertainty for the future.
If we are able to rise up above our fear, to intraject the gift of faith, we have ample ability to endure our suffering.
When we throw ourselves into our fears, we crush them with faith.
Help in Our Suffering
One of the most important theologies we ought never to forget, when we live for God’s purposes, is God will never leave us nor forsake us. In this way, within the suffering world, God is with us through these gifts of faith and suffering: the faith to deal with fear and the ability to suffer well.
Suffering well is a strange concept until we grasp that God is with us through it.
When we understand that God is with us, not against us, and we have the tool for victory over each moment’s fear, i.e. faith, we stand as the warrior in the battleground. When we think like a warrior, too, and we are pleased to possess this ground. We are defined by this very ground—our lives.
Battlegrounds are not to be resented. Neither are our lives nor any of our circumstances.
Suffering for Christ
Not only do we have a way of living this life, a way of living it well, we are privileged to suffer for Christ as Christ suffered for us on the cross. But only intimacy with God will convince us that this is actually a privilege.
When we suffer for Christ we understand intimacy with God just as the reverse is true. And when we suffer these ways we know how to suffer well.
God is gracious by the provision of gifts that enable us to live faithfully and suffer well. These together are the only effective weapons against every form of fear. Be glad and at joy. We can overcome.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.