Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
– Romans 12:12, NIV
Sometimes we have to endure longsuffering. Although our hedonistic society continually encourages us to pursue a life free from all pain and suffering, endurance is an integral part of being a follower of Christ. Think of all that Jesus had to endure. Do we consider ourselves higher or more sophisticated than Him, in trying with all our might to avoid suffering? As His followers, there will be times and situations in life in which our task is simply to endure, to get through it, and to come out the other side having remained faithful to Him.
Some Christians are offended when we talk about the cost of following Christ – but living for Him is costly! Christ did not come to take away all of our difficulties! He came to take away our sin and make us right with God, and He will equip us for the long, hard battle that is life here on earth as His followers. I am not trying to suggest that we pursue suffering, but that when it pursues us – as it will, at times – our response need not always be to run from it or to find the easy route out: that sometimes God may call us to stick it out through the roughest of situations, through which He can teach us and shape us and use us in ways we can barely imagine.
God often takes a course for accomplishing His purposes directly contrary to what our narrow views would prescribe. He brings a death upon our feelings, wishes, and prospects when He is about to give us the desire of our hearts.
– John Newton
Jesus promised that in this world we will have trouble, that we will be persecuted, that people will hate us. God does not remove suffering so that Christians can have easy lives. He calls us conquerors by His strength – but is this not meaningless if there is nothing to conquer? He calls and equips us for longsuffering, and not one of us will avoid this – indeed, in the book of James we are encouraged to rejoice in it! Although the journey may be painful and difficult, through it we have opportunity to discover how to trust in God more deeply, love Him more intimately, seek Him more truthfully, follow Him more genuinely – even though He may seem a million miles away. He never said that we would be in it alone. May we surrender to God our longsuffering, our endurance, that He might teach us and shape us through it.
Madame Guyon wrote: “No, beloved souls, ye will not find consolation in aught, but in the love of the Cross, and in total abandonment: “Whosoever favoureth not the Cross, favoureth not the things that be of God” (Matt. xvi. 23). It is impossible to love GOD without loving the Cross; and a heart that favours the Cross, finds the bitterest things to be sweet: “A famished soul findeth bitter things sweet” (Job. vi. 1) because it findeth itself hungering for GOD, in proportion as it hungereth for the Cross. GOD giveth the Cross, and the Cross giveth us GOD. We may be assured, that there is an internal advancement, where there is an advancement in the way of the Cross: Abandonment and the Cross go hand in hand together.” Dare she suggest that we should not only rejoice in our suffering but should FAVOUR suffering for Christ’s sake…? Could she be saying that as we suffer in life we come closer to God and become more able to surrender ourselves to Him?
She went on to write, “As soon as suffering presents itself, and you feel a repugnance against it, resign yourself immediately unto GOD with respect to it, and give yourself up to Him in sacrifice; you shall find, that, when the Cross arrives, it will not be so very burdensome, because you had disposed yourself to a willing reception of it. This, however, does not prevent your feeling its weight as some have imagined; for when we do not feel the Cross, we do not suffer it. A sensibility of sufferings constitutes a principal part of the sufferings themselves. JESUS CHRIST Himself was willing to suffer its utmost rigours. We often bear the Cross in weakness, at other times in strength; all should be equal to us in the will of GOD.”
May we come to God in humility, and surrender to Him our burdens, our difficulties, our sufferings. May we be honest with Him about our struggles, not denying them in some vain attempt to appear strong or trick ourselves into believing that we are big enough or holy enough to deal with our struggles with ease, but to first acknowledge and then to surrender them. Yes, we suffer. Yes, we feel it – and it is neither easy nor enjoyable. And we resent it, even though we know that we should be willing to suffer, even welcoming of the concept of suffering, that Christ might do some deep work in our lives. But may we now surrender to Him, knowing that He cares deeply – and may we allow Him to teach and shape us, equipping us to endure and showing us the way through.
May we surrender to God our difficulties of all kinds – the ‘small’ and seemingly insignificant things as well as the ‘big’ things. Let us give over to Him anything we face for which we need endurance. Perhaps God can teach us His grace in dealing with some of these things, and use us as His light in those situations. May we surrender to Him all those little things that we deal with every day, as well as the more life-consuming struggles. Having to get the kids to sleep every evening. Waiting for that doctor’s appointment. Putting up with the annoying neighbor. The conflict with that colleague at work. Caring for that sick relative. The struggle of balancing work life and home life. Not feeling like there is any time to rest. The back pain that shows up every day. The people that always make rude comments about being a Christian. Whatever it is – may we surrender it to Him, and allow Him to shape us, teach us and use us. May He support us through our struggles, holding us up in His hands, and as we lean on His support may He show us His will, planting in us His attitudes so that we can deal with situations in a way that pleases Him.
So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore. For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.
– Hebrews 13:13-15, NLT
May we surrender to God our responses to suffering. In the passage above we are encouraged to CHOOSE it – to deliberately go and bear disgrace with Jesus because we know the One to whom we belong, and we pledge allegiance to His team knowing that those who follow Him have to suffer. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in situations of difficulty just for the sake of suffering; rather that we can welcome opposition and persecution and trials when they come, as a part of life for the sake of following Christ.
May we surrender to God, and choose to praise Him for how great He is throughout all that we go through, even in the midst of the most difficult times. Such a praise offering is one of the very strongest and most powerful things we can do from a place of pain. To choose to worship God when we least feel like it, and while the world seems to be crashing down around us – that is the perfect fertile ground for His fruit to grow and roots to deepen. And if we cannot pursue and praise God in the darkness when we feel hurt and do not understand why, perhaps our praise and our relationship with God and our whole faith depends only on our situations, not on truth. May we surrender to Him and let Him teach us how to continue pursuing and worshipping and praising Him in the times when we need Him the most and perhaps feel Him the least.
Of course this is all much easier said than done. We all want to praise God in the hard times and we choose to submit to God when we are in pain – we know that it is the good and right thing to do – but it is hard. We need His help. So may we surrender to God our difficulties, surrender to God our desire to give Him a “sacrifice of praise” in those times of struggle. May we give our shoulders to God and all that we are carrying on them. The Psalmist says in Psalm 68:19 (NIV), “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” And Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28 (NIV), “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” We can surrender our burdens into God’s hands, and although God does not immediately free us from every struggle, we can be certain that He will use it for good. May we surrender to God whatever is burdening us, and surrender to Him our endurance of it.
Let this be thy whole endeavour, this thy prayer, this thy desire – that thou mayest be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only.
– Thomas a Kempis
Thank You for giving us an example of perfect sinless endurance.
Thank You that You understand my pain, and that You are with me.
Please, Lord, help me endure the things that I have to endure.
I surrender to You the things that are burdening me.
I surrender to You the ways I deal with those things.
I give You my shoulders, God – please give me Your strength.
Please use these difficulties to bring me to deeper intimacy with You!
Please teach me to be thankful and to praise You in all situations.
I love You, my Saviour, and I choose You regardless.
I choose to take up the cross and follow You – please help me.
I surrender to You – please lead me and give me Your strength.
May I live in Your ways, enduring all things in a way that pleases You.