Sunday, September 18, 2011

Suffering -- An Ugly, Beautiful Word

Today, as every Sunday, I went to church expecting fully to be blessed by the praise and worship, testimonies of men just back from their Emmaus retreats, and from Bro. Jim's message.  All of that happened, just as I expected, but something else happened as well.  I was challenged in my commitment, which as I sure most of you who have experienced know, feels pretty crappy. 

Our wonderful pastor has been, week after week, challenging us to go deeper in our faith. A few weeks ago it would about no longer being "ankle deep" and "comfortable" in our faith, something Jason and I had just talked about.  This Sunday, Philippians 1:29 pierced my soul as our pastor read these words:

"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake"

Those words hit me hard, almost as though I had never heard them before, although I have read them many times.  My guilt was further inflamed when Jim commented that we have created a "middle-class Jesus."  The truth of that statement resounded with me.

Then in Sunday school, just when I was gathering my thoughts, Marisa spoke of the Apostles' Creed, and how many people suffered and died so that we could have such a bold statement of faith.  She had no idea, but that word was speaking directly to me.

I am so guilty of living this way, and I my heart was sick at how selfish I have been.  I find myself frustrated with Jason when he gives up his time to work a youth retreat or a prison walk, but don't take time to tell him how much I appreciate the sacrifice of time he is making to change the lives of others.  Am I willing to do the same?

I want to be blessed and prosperous, and I want to follow Christ, but do I then whine and complain and avoid anything that would be a sacrifice of my time, money, or resources?

Suffering has never been a concept that appealed to me,  nor a word that I revel in using.  As humans, I suppose, our first nature to is care for ourselves and those we love, and be sure we are safe and secure, but as Christians we are called to fight against our nature and do instead what does not come naturally to us.  The real question is: is that how I have been living? 

I feel awful at the thought that I am more than willing to accept that Jesus suffered and died for me, but much less willing to suffer myself for someone who showed such unconditional love to me.

I hope that by putting it out there, the people I love most will hold me accountable to the reality of my faith, and if truly living for Him means that I will suffer, that I will do it with joy, and find the beauty in his suffering

May it do me good to remember Phil. 1:27 as well:

"Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ"

Please pray that I will do just that...carry myself in a way that would be an example to my son, my husband, family, my students, and even strangers.  I want to be worthy of his gospel, and I can't do it if all I care about is being "comfortable."  I certainly don't want Connor to be lukewarm in his faith, and I am reminded that the main view of Christ he will see is through Jason and me.

I am, however, so thankful for all of the people in my life (church, school, and family) who are constantly stepping out of their comfort zones to follow Christ in new places and endeavors.  You inspire me.



Ann Goff said...

Thank you Laura, that was a great message or testimony, what ever you want to call it. You are so right about getting out of our comfort zone to follow Christ, we are going to suffer but it will be worth it to feel closer to the Lord and to have more faith.
I was just thinking about that verse this morning in 2 Peter 4:1,
it says, For as much then as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that has suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.
Just continue to seek and the Bible says you shall find.
Love you,

kinze said...

amen sister ... this is good ... thanks for sharing ... coming over from the wiegands link up!