Suffering is a difficult subject in a society that does everything it can to remove suffering. In fact, we consider the absence of suffering so important that we are willing to kill the unborn and euthanize the elderly or the sick to avoid it. We say, "It would not be fair for a child to be raised in such an environment. Aren't there enough suffering children in the world?" Talking about acting like God to make such decisions with no knowledge of what the future holds for that child. And who gets to decide when someone has lived long enough? When is enough? 60? 70? 80? 90? Maybe 100 is long enough? How do we measure the worth of a life? No, suffering should be seen as a step in the process of life. To face suffering with a proper attitude will allow the experience to become a positive growth moment in our life. If not then it becomes a complete waste of our time and energy. Peter writes:
It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:17-18)
As we have discussed in previous posts, there is no spiritual value in suffering for doing evil other than allowing it to bring you to a point of repentance. However, the suffering of the righteous for the sake of righteousness always produces something incredible, as was demonstrated by Jesus Christ. It is not that the suffering of the saints brings about salvation because that was only possible through Jesus Christ, the perfect lamb of God. However, the sacrifice and suffering of the saints is used by God to produce and provoke many other blessings for the people of this world and the Church.
A glaring example of this, that is before me every day, is the incredible sacrifice of my believing staff at our school. They could be doing anything else and earning good money for doing it but instead the pour out their lives and energy into the lives of their students for wages that are below minimum wage. Their sacrifice of service is offered in Jesus' name and in the hopes that God will use it to plant seeds in the lives of these young people. On top of that, such sacrifice and determination is used to bless the families connected to our school. The staff meet each day with new hope, new energy, new desires and they trust that the Father is using their best for his glory. Doing this for a day is tiring. Doing it for a week requires divine intervention. Doing it for a month demands a miracle. Doing it for an entire year requires a brain transplant. Just kidding, but it might help. To face suffering and sacrifice for a short period of time is hard enough but to face it for the rest of your life takes an extra measure of grace and the understanding of God's purpose. The Apostle Paul seemed to have a great grasp of the concept of suffering that alludes us today:
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
The idea of "laying down" our lives for the sake of other people should be our reality as much as it is the reality of the military. Each soldier understands that he will be called on to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, for the people back home, for his family. It is the life they choose and it would be ridiculous for them to complain about it. It is also the life we have been called to if we are willing to also step into spiritual maturity. It takes maturity to understand when the Word tells us to consider others more important than ourself. It is with this perspective and understanding that we find it a way of life to set aside our freedoms and rights so that others may enjoy theirs. It is with such understanding that we are able to overcome the lack of love, hatred, jealousy, even pride. We no longer need to be right all the time and we are willing to promote others ahead of ourself.
With such an attitude toward sacrifice and suffering we may discover that people start putting credibility back in the Church and Jesus Christ. You know someone is serious about what they say when they are willing to sacrifice for it. You know how deep those convictions run when they allow that sacrifice to support suffering. So now the question, "Do you believe?" should carry a little more weight to it.