Skip to main content

Does suffering serve any communal purpose?

Trials and afflictions have a levelling effect among believers. It has often been said that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” That is, regardless of our wealth or power or station in life, we are all alike in our need for a Saviour  In the same way, we are all alike subject to adversity. It strikes the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the superior and the subordinate, all without distinction. In times of adversity we tend to set aside such notions of “vertical” relationships and relate to one another on a horizontal level as brothers and fellow sufferers. John could have rightly identified himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, as one in a position of spiritual authority over the suffering believers in Asia. Instead he chose to identify himself as a brother and companion in their suffering. Trials and afflictions also have a mutual drawing effect among believers. They tend to break down barriers between us and dissolve any appearance of self-sufficiency we may have. We find our hearts warmed and drawn toward one another. We sometimes worship together with another person, pray together, and even serve together in the ministry without ever truly feeling a bond of fellowship. But then, in a strange way, adversity strikes us both. Immediately we sense a new bond of fellowship in Christ, the fellowship of suffering.
- Jerry Bridges
(Source: Trusting God)

This is wonderfully expressed. In the book, Jerry Bridges helpfully notes that St Paul praises God in an interesting fashion in his second letter to the Corinthians : "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God".  He observes the three-fold nature of God's comfort. First, God comforts us. Secondly, God comforts us in our troubles. And Finally, the purpose of our comfort is that we may comfort others. In other words our afflictions are not just for ourselves, but so that we may comfort others. We must never waster our suffering but must rightly recognise that part of the wonder of the Christian calling is that we have not only joined the fellowship of love and happiness but also the fellowship of suffering. We are to share our suffering as Christ has shared his suffering with us. In Jesus we are called to share the suffering of our Saviour by taking up the cross and denying ourselves. And so St Paul rightly says in his letter to the church of Colossae, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church". 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Christian and Technology, A Review

The central argument of John Fresko’s  The Christian  and Technology  is that technology is a double-edged sword that requires cautious and intentional use. Continuous uncritical use of technology erodes hunger for the Word of God, makes us self-centred and turns our useful devices into idols. The book intends to promote proper use of technology by encouraging us to dig into our hearts to see whether Christ so fills us that nothing can drag us away from him. Fresko believes there is no need for us to flee from technology or become Luddites because technology is value neutral. It is not in of itself good or bad. Instead, we must focus on carefully evaluating how we think about and use technology. This necessarily requires us  not only to understand the relevant technology, but also understand ourselves. A key part of this is recognising that we struggle with technology because we lack contentment in Christ. The book explores explores six different technologies. I think the most fascina

I am what I am by Gloria Gaynor

Beverly Knight closed the opening ceremony of the Paralympics with what has been dubbed the signature tune of the Paralympics. I had no idea Ms Knight is still in the singing business. And clearly going by the raving reviews she will continue to be around. One media source says her performance was so electric that "there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen as she sang the lyrics to the song and people even watching at home felt the passion in her words" . The song was Gloria Gaynor's I am what I am . Clearly not written by Gloria Gaynor but certainly musically owned and popularized by her. It opens triumphantly: I am what I am / I am my own special creation / So come take a look / Give me the hook or the ovation / It's my world that I want to have a little pride in / My world and it's not a place I have to hide in / Life's not worth a damn till you can say I am what I am The words “I am what I am” echo over ten times in the song. A bold declaration that she

Today I Learned

The puritan John Miles (1621-1683)   founded the first Baptist Church in Wales. He then emigrated to America shortly after the Act of Uniformity (1662) when 2,000 ministers were ejected from the Established Church. With a large proportion of his church, Miles settled at a new Swansea, about ten miles from Providence in Rhode Island. The church grew in face of persistent opposition.   Once, when Miles was brought before the  magistrates on some charge, he asked for a Bible. He then quoted Job 19:28 - Ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me ? (KJV). He stopped there and sat down. The court was so convicted by the content and context of the passage that their cruelty gave way to kindness. ( Source : An Introduction to the Baptists, Erroll Hulse)