for we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in asia. for we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. [1 corinthians 1:8]
why don’t I suffer?
my family is getting ready to move to a new house. and it’s strange how so many neighbors that we’ve hardly said two words to have come out of the woodwork to talk to us. we’ve had so many conversations, encouragements, compliments, that it makes us almost sad to leave the neighborhood. but one conversation will probably be stuck in my mind for life. as we talked about what we’re looking for in a house, we mentioned that we regularly have pretty large groups to our house, and we would love a space to accommodate that. our neighbor replied, “oh yeah, i’ve noticed that on sundays. you guys mormon or something?”
utter failure. we’ve lived across from him for six years and he thinks we’re mormon. i crawled from my mountain of shock into a cave of shame. how could my neighbor, who i see out and about every day, not know that i love Jesus? do i love Jesus? my actions clearly are not showing it.
so when I see paul talk about suffering to the point of despairing of life itself, i have to ask myself why i’m not suffering. the answer is obvious. i’m not suffering because i’m not on mission for the gospel. i’m not passionate to share the glory of God with the lost. i tell myself it’s not my job. i don’t care that their souls are going to be eternally separated from my loving Father.
now, that’s not to say that i haven’t experienced some suffering. certainly, i’ve lost friends because we believe different things. i’ve had serious conversations with family members that have resulted in months of radio silence. even some family members who have shut us out completely. but even these mild events are few and far between. would I be able to embrace trials where my safety or even my life were threatened?
here’s my point. the trials we suffer in this age, in this country, are probably not going to look like paul’s. at least not for now. but we can build the muscle of suffering so that it is strong when the hardest trials come. everyone has a platform from which they can be bold for the gospel. (not social media, though. come on, guys.) i’m talking about the office, the classroom, the family gatherings, the parties, the break room, the neighborhood, even in the church. as we flex this muscle of boldness, the suffering will come. it’s probably going to be small, but it’s practice, and it builds boldness. let’s not let it make us shy away from pressing on, but make us find true comfort in Jesus when our earthly comforts are taken away. let’s find our hope in him. because we know he’s worth it. take a minute to pray to that end.
i’m not going to let my neighborhood failure lead me to a place of despair. it doesn’t change who i am in Christ. out of love, the Spirit shows me my weakness, and the joy of my salvation urges me forward to love our new neighbors in a way that may bring them to salvation.
therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [hebrews 12:1-2]
(actually, just read that whole chapter.)
~ arwen eastman