May 19, 2021
Suffer Well My Brothers and Sisters
Looking back over the past year and change, we have all witnessed suffering in ways that were most likely foreign to us in our previous experience. Many of us have not seen the ravaging impact of an epidemic such as the Corona Virus in all its broad sweeping effects to physical health, mental health, financial health and spiritual health. It is in times of suffering that many might question whether God exists and if He does exist, why would He allow so much suffering to take place. However, St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans tells us that believers can become more like Christ through endurance and suffering.
“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” Rom 5: 1-5
We all must live our life one day at a time. Yes, we will experience suffering, no one was ever promised to live without suffering. Paul goes on to warn us that if we live merely by flesh, then we set our minds only on the things of the flesh. However, those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit and suffering then can take its place in our daily living. Romans 8:17 says that to suffer with Christ is to share in his inheritance. What a beautiful opportunity we have – to share in Christ’s inheritance as children of God.
There is redemptive work in suffering, scripture makes that clear. An additional explanation of this is shared by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 3 verses 14-15. In these verses Paul is giving us a simple warning that we need to be glorified in our work and in our suffering and we should suffer well. For if we merely coast through this lifetime getting by with minimal spiritual effort, then we shall receive our just reward through fire. Albeit, the end has hope, there is much suffering with painful spiritual consequences, like a man who barely escapes a burning building with his life.
“If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor 3: 14-15)
One way to look at suffering is to embrace it for our spiritual self in order that we experience the reverse effect of growing old. In other words, though our physical bodies age, suffer, and die – our inner self (our spiritual self) can be renewed and enlivened every day. The momentary afflictions we experience in this life, when we suffer well, are preparing us for the eternal life.
Jesus is our perfect model for how to live. He tells us to be perfect, just as our heavenly father is perfect. Paul gives us a brutal reminder of how Jesus’ perfect love was portrayed.
“8And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2: 8-11
Jesus experienced the ultimate indignity through his crucifixion. Death by crucifixion was the most appalling and humiliating form of execution. And yet, Jesus was glorified and exalted by the suffering cross and ultimately was enthroned in heaven. So too might we experience a similar destiny when we humbly accept our suffering.
Finally, I’d like to shed a light on suffering by looking through the lens of discipline. We hear Paul once again talk about this in his letter to the Hebrews 12: 4-14. This is a lengthy passage, and it very eloquently describes the joy that awaits us on the other side of our suffering and discipline- if we do it well.
4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? — “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor lose courage when you are punished by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
And so, my brothers and sisters, as we joyfully look forward to a loosening of the restrictions that are on the threshold of this Coronavirus pandemic, let us embrace the lessons of suffering that we have endured. May we be disciplined in our earthly life and allow our spiritual self to blossom through the travails of the body. Suffer well my brothers and sisters and embrace peace.