So, I had a lovely post ready for tomorrow morning (or today, by the time anyone reads this). All edited, well reasoned, not a bad thing to read. Then tonight my pastor had to go and give this great sermon, saying a few things I’ve already been considering of late, so now it is Sunday night and I am starting from scratch, hoping perhaps the things that have been on my heart–and apparently on the heart of my pastor, as well–might also touch someone else’s heart out there.
The topic is suffering, specifically suffering because I am a Christian. And frankly, I have no idea at all what it means to suffer because I’m a Christian. I know hardship–I deal with chronic illness, buried a brother a few years ago, have an unemployed husband. But suffering for Christ? Not even a little bit.
But you know what? I act like I do, like things in my life are so hard, so far from what they should be, so unfair. I live in an upper middle-class world where I no longer fit at all–I don’t vacation, don’t buy pretty things, never enter a clothing store, and have a house that might fall down on my head before my husband is done with his higher education–but it’s still worlds above most people on this planet, so much so that it’s embarrassing.
And honestly, I am embarrassed. I read about Christians over the world who are victims of horrible crimes or living in refugee camps with no hopes for improvement, and I know I would be ashamed to meet them. The world is filled with mature, amazing, strong Christians who actually understand the word suffering, and I hope I never have to face them, because they would know in a second a terrible truth about me–I am a child. A little child who thinks her own comfort is the most important thing in the world, a little child who whines and fusses about things of no consequence because I don’t really understand what gives a thing importance to begin with.
I can’t do much to bring about personal suffering because of Christ. That sounds a little strange, but even the most radical Christians in America rarely suffer any grand torments for their faith. We may in the future, but right now we’re still relatively safe. But, there is something we can do now to help us mature, and it’s something else my pastor touched on tonight. In fact, when he said it, I had an urge to jump out of my seat, raise my arms, and yell “YES!” But really, that would have been quite the distraction, so I’m just going to talk about it here.
He said we think of a good, easy life as normal. When my husband had work, and we had extra money, we defined that as normal. And when things don’t fit that model, then things are wrong, and the goal is to get back to normal. But God’s Word never says that. Yes, we can be excited and thankful when things are great. But once we define that as normal, then God starts disappointing us, because what he actually calls normal is hardship. He told Adam to expect hardship. And Jesus told us to expect suffering. And Peter says the world includes difficulties. Things are indeed wrong, and they will get right, but that’s later. Here and now, hardship is normal, and God’s promise is to carry us through so we can endure, not to take it all away from us. This world is the battlefield; why do I expect it to look like a vacation cruise?
So, application? Stop making it my goal to secure a life God never promised for this world. Do whatever God wants, even if it doesn’t move me toward a ‘good life’. I may not suffer, but if God says it needs to come to that, the right attitudes about God’s love and his plan will help me to react righteously and not like the selfish child I happen to be right now. And then, when I meet someone who has truly suffered, I can shake his hand and look him in the eye and be an encourager to him instead of being his pitiful, sheltered baby sister.