• Richard Parrish

How Should We Suffer?


She was unable to conceal the tear sliding down her cheek. Then, exhaling a deep sigh, she said: “It’s difficult to stay strong when my faith is under attack.”


Contrary to the adage: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” words do hurt! They can cause extreme pain and distress.


This woman was suffering. She grieves at how her Christian beliefs face ongoing challenge and ridicule. “It wasn’t always like this,” she said.


She’s not alone. She’s not the first one who’s suffered because of their faith. She’s not the only one who longs for a time when following Christ seemed to be more convenient.


Despite the ridicule and her nostalgic longing for a less challenging world, she’s in pain.


Following Christ is not for the weak.


Contrary to what some well-meaning Christians suggest: Following Christ does not give us a free pass from hardship.


The candor of Jesus’ message is up-front. You can’t justly accuse Jesus of false claims. He does not assert that following him will be easy. Jesus reminds his disciples:

“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
- Mark 13:13 (ESV)

Jesus pulls no punches. He reminds us that the reason the world hates Christ-followers is that it hated him first. The way to be loved by the world is to be like the world. But Christ-followers are not of this world. As a result, we can expect hate and persecution (John 15:18-20).


I understand this isn’t a popular message when self-entitlement takes center stage in our society.


As much as we want to believe following Jesus would have been easier when he walked on this earth, following Christ has always been costly. It always will be.


Following Jesus is not convenient. It’s an act of commitment and courage. Like it or not, suffering is an inevitable part of our calling as Christ-followers.


Although I have high pain tolerance, I assure you, I do not enjoy suffering. Who does? So, if our faith does not make us immune from hardship, How Should We Suffer?


If you need some encouragement (or know someone who does), here are five practical steps to discover courage and strengthen your commitment to following Jesus:


1. Allow God’s word to strengthen you.


Are you afflicted? The Psalmist writes: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Ps. 119:50).


Are you weak? The apostle Paul recognizes that God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).


Are you afraid? Listen to the words of Isaiah:


“…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)


2. Allow Christ’s example to inspire you.


Are you tempted? Your temptation is not foreign to Jesus. He’s aware of your struggle. Because he is familiar with suffering, he can help those going through testing (Hebrews 2:18).


Are you in need of comfort? Isaiah gives us an image of Jesus as a shepherd who gathers the lambs in his arms, who gently leads them, and holds them closely (Is.40:11).


3. Allow the Spirit to strengthen you.


Paul was able to rejoice in sufferings, recognizing that the fruit of suffering is worthwhile:

“… but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. - Romans 5:3–5 (ESV)

4. Encourage each other.


Remember, you’re not the only one struggling. I have dear friends in parts of Eastern Europe who are suffering greatly for their faith. Through Zoom and other forms of communication, I’m doing my best to encourage their lives.


You know of people who are struggling. By intentionally finding ways to love, care, and encourage them — we also find encouragement. Paul reminds the Thessalonians: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).


5. Keep your focus on the victory.


Our assurance is in the promise of Christ’s victory.

“For the Lord himself, will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” - 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 (ESV).

As followers of Jesus, it’s not possible to avoid suffering. However, the assurance we have as Christ-followers is that we are more than conquerors because of Christ.


 

As followers of Christ, this world isn’t our home, and it’s more important than ever that we build community to encourage and support each other. Strong relationships with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ make a world of difference on this journey. Please consider liking my Facebook page. This is one way you can get immediate access to all my latest blog posts, as well as videos and other encouraging content. I hope I will see you there!


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