By Cyprian Antwi Awuah
Suffering Is Real
Christian suffering is real. It is one of those tools that God uses to facilitate the believer’s spiritual growth. Concerning suffering, Peter was explicit when he wrote:
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps (1 Pet 2:21).
The question is how is Jesus’ suffering connected to our daily sufferings?
Christ As Our Pattern
Suppose the believer’s suffering is not due to mission work or to explicitly serving the Lord in some area of ministry. Is his suffering also suffering for Christ?
How are one’s complicated health issues connected to Christ’s suffering? Can the believer’s suffering from cancer, spinal injury, hand or leg amputation, heart failure, kidney problems, eye problems, loss of a child or loss of a partner be related to Christ’s suffering?
We know that Christ’s suffering was unique. But since we are to share His suffering, and His suffering is an example for us to follow, there must be an application to be drawn from Peter’s list of things that Christ did not do when He suffered. For example:
who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Pet 2:23).
Peter is not talking about the similarity of what Christ suffered to what we suffer—whether being flogged, spat upon, or nailed to the cross. Those experiences are not a pattern that will occur to
each believer. Instead, Peter addresses the issue of our response to suffering. He is saying that how Christ responded to His suffering is our pattern to follow. God looks at how things are done, not just whether they are done. Our learning the application is important to God. Before God can be glorified by that, the right thing must be done in the right way in the plan of God.
How to Relate Your Suffering to Christ’s Suffering
Now that we know we will not necessarily suffer the exact things as Christ, what do we make of any suffering that comes to us? Should we also consider health problems, financial challenges, marriage problems, or loss of job as suffering for Christ?
Where do we draw the line between deserved and undeserved suffering?
Christ suffered undeservedly. Therefore, our sufferings should be undeserved, too.
However, since the believer is here on earth for a purpose, he should respond to his suffering as something from the Lord, i.e., something that happens for a purpose, by the Lord’s decision, just like Christ’s suffering. That is the only way the believer can make a connection between his daily sufferings and suffering for Christ. The believer’s response to suffering will determine whether or not he is following Christ’s pattern.
The Christian Response to Suffering
When we do not have the kind of food we desire, how do we respond? Should we respond like the Exodus generation who complained about not getting cucumber, onion, and garlic and suffered serious consequences (Num 11:5)?
When we do not have the kind of health that we desire, how do we respond? Will we also keep complaining about suffering poor health?
What about a faulty air conditioner?
Or lack of funds to fix our car?
Do you think you are here on earth for your own mission? And if you agree that someone brought you here, do you think He does not care anything about your life?
Of course, He cares.
Though God does not necessarily cause these sufferings to happen to us, when they do happen, He uses them as a tool to shape us so that we could be like Christ in character. God expects the believer to have this knowledge to properly interpret his sufferings in this life.
Scripture never teaches anywhere that we should enquire from people who call themselves prophets (but are not!) concerning the reasons why we are suffering. Instead, He wants us to endure it by faith in such promises such as: “all things work together for good for those who love God” …(Rom 8:28); “Vengeance is mine, I will repay… (Rom 12:19).”
He also promised that He would not allow us to be tried (i.e., suffer) beyond what we can bear (1 Cor 10:13).
Cyprian Antwi Awuah is a pastor and is Director of BGBI Ghana.