Do I Suffer Enough?

As a first world Christ follower it is easy to wrap my head around glory. The American society idolizes the notion of being glorified. In the earliest of life stages, we are taught to be my/the best. Which is not necessarily bad. I condone being your best. However, when my joy comes when others validate my achievement, I have to question, “Am I a glory seeker?” Am I someone who reads about the glory of God-a glory that I will one day take part in and desire that glory now?

I see glory through my sin-colored glasses and assume people should glorify me. Ugh, when areas of pride are revealed in me I want to gag. The issue for me (and I would assume others like me) is I have a sequence of occurrences in Roman 8:18 completely askew.  Here is the way I saw it.

NO SUFFERING→PRESENT GLORY→FUTURE GLORY

That is absurd. More than astoundingly ludicrous, but it is vehemently contradictory to both Biblical texts and the life of my Lord, Jesus. The proper sequence is as follows.

PRESENT  SUFFERING→FUTURE GLORY

This is exactly what Jesus did. He wrote the book on it (John 1:1 (insert attempt of funny Biblical joke)). Yet, my focus is on this glory that is to be revealed (future tense) in me. You know why? Because that part sounds AWESOME! I like the sound of that, GLORY! In me? I’ll take it. I’ll take it…..suffering….suffering I could do without. And after going through this series of thoughts, I had to ask the title question.

DO I SUFFER ENOUGH?

I have wrestled with this question for three weeks. I am so infatuated with the glory, but so repulsed by the suffering.

I probe my extent of suffering, and I realized something. I don’t suffer. I don’t suffer at all. Any point of pain caused to me by my affection for Christ was so petty and minuscule, I dare not even list it for embarrassment. I will though to keep me honest. My idea of “suffering” was managing an unsettled (still unsettled) tension with a fellow Christian. That is not suffering. It is awkward and painful and heavy, but it is NOT suffering. It is struggling.

In 2 Corinthians 11: 23- 29, Paul declares boldly his “suffering credentials”.

I have worked much harder been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and exposed to death again and again. FIVE TIMES I received from the Jews the forty lashed minus one (195 lashes). Three times I was beaten with rods, one I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my OWN countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often on without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

I am a wimp. I know Paul was a person like me, but seriously. It seemed on a day-to-day basis Paul was suffering or recovering from suffering. When, I think of suffering I assume physical pain, but Paul’s suffering was deeper than that. When Paul wasn’t being beaten he was in danger of being attacked by bandits, Romans, Jews, Gentiles or false brothers. He was in danger in any location whether it be the city, country, or sea. He was hungry, thirsty, cold, and exhausted. He was not even operating at Maslow’s foundational level of the Hierarchy of needs. Moreover, his greatest concern is for the church. Seriously, I feel like if I was Paul I would have a hard enough time keeping my life together, let alone carrying this burden of my concern for the churches. However, Paul does not lift up his sufferings in agonizing defeat. HE BOASTS IN THEM!

2 Corinthians 6:4-10, Paul talks candidly and sincerely about his suffering and it is beautiful.

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way. In great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine yet regarded as imposters; known yet, regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten yet no killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

This is where I want to be one day. In this suffering is where I want to live. Because while there is a glory after suffering. There is also a glory within suffering.

Lord, teach me how to suffer well. Don’t fix my eyes on future glory. Just fix my eyes on Your glory. Lord, let me be satisfied in who You are.  Amen

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