KNOWING JOY IN SUFFERING
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
// 1 Philippians 3:8
I remember as a teenager I was sharing a burden, a hurt, something close to my heart, with someone in a position of authority and closeness to me. The person responded sarcastically, “Oh Georgie, stop being such a martyr!” I can’t remember what the topic of discussion was, but I do know I have never forgotten those five words! And I think as a young teenager I severely adjusted my behavior because of them. I shut my heart off a little, wondering if indeed I was being selfish and my feelings weren’t worth sharing – wondering if, in fact, this person was right.
I’m sure many people have experienced this.
Sometimes as Christians, in the modern day church, when we suffer loss we can quietly blame God or feel overlooked by Him in our hearts, but we don’t want to vocalize our real pain and confusion in case the people around us wound us even further by responding with a harsh “get over it!” But if we don’t share our burdens, the pain we are harboring can seep out of our hearts and mouths; bitterness can brew and simmer, before spilling onto the people around us in our actions and the sub-text of the words we speak. Or alternatively, we vocalize and complain and grumble about our sufferings to no end, burdening those around us and allowing our words to poison our lives and the lives of others!
Neither of these two extreme responses were Paul’s position or example to us. In Philippians 3:8 Paul acknowledges his suffering and loss, whilst also acknowledging that his suffering does not matter in comparison to what he has been given in Christ. He is not self-deprecating or minimizing what he has been through, he is real and honest with the fact that life has been hard, but in the same breath, he is also real and true in the knowledge of the greatness of what he has been given in and through Christ Jesus. And in this beautiful balanced position, he is able to let go of the loss and take hold of all Christ has for him.
When we have the knowledge of what Christ has done for us, and the knowledge of our inheritance in Christ, and when we know the value of what He has given us on the cross, our perspective shifts. We don’t forget our sacrifice and sufferings but rather they become our deep joy, our battle scars in a war well worth the fight. I have seen this time and time again in church life, the joy in the eyes of a team member who knows that the sacrifice of their time and energy in building the House, the Kingdom, pleases Christ and changes lives, who knows the value in that far outweighs any sacrifice they could make. It’s not that the presence of joy means there is a lack of suffering, but rather that suffering produces great joy in us when we have the knowledge of who our beautiful Savior is and the great gift He has given us on the cross.
// Pastor Georgie Kelsey