Suffering in the Christian journey

I hate suffering. That’s what I told God many years ago when I was confronted with the truth that as a Christian, I would have to suffer. Later on, I learned to accept suffering, but more of with a resigned attitude. I knew in my mind that as a Christian, identifying with Jesus means partaking in the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, but I guess it was just mental assent. I think I have my share of inconveniences and hiccups in my Christian journey, but I dare not label them as sufferings. To me, suffering is what the persecuted church went through and my difficulties are just not in the same league.

Inevitably, I had to be confronted by the issue at Adult Fellowship tonight. I thought I knew James 1:2-4, but I realised that I didn’t.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

‘Consider it pure joy’? How could one do that in the face of trials? And it’s pure, unadulterated joy! That would be supernatural, I thought. Perhaps I could psycho myself and keep repeating ‘I’m joyful, I’m joyful’ even when trials besiege me. But we discovered that pure joy is only possible when we have the end in mind, i.e. the testing of faith develops perseverance, which results in maturity and completeness when finished. This maturity is the fullness of Christ. Do I want to have Christ’s character? You bet. But I will have to be tested. And God tests and disciplines me because I’m His child!

I’m too much of a creature of comfort. I think I just want everything to be 顺顺利利, without fuss and hassle. Perhaps that’s why I resist meeting and shepherding people. I just want to avoid the suffering of being too involved in people’s lives. So, my attitude has been wrong all the while.

Even as I became aware of my shortcomings, Baofang (my GDL) asked me what I was going to do with my awareness. “You know a lot, but you didn’t apply what you know.” I think so too. Help! I responded that I would really consider and meditate on the word of God, and pray that I would grow in conviction.

“Abba, please help me. I’m a presumptuous creature who is slow to obey by faith. Suffering is difficult to embrace, but I want to change because I know that You use suffering to cause your children to grow, and that’s because you love us. I know You love me and want me to grow. Teach me to die so that I may grow. Help me to die so that Christ may live in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

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