“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.” 1 Peter 2:21
I’m not sure in what church I heard it, but the words of a kind and thoughtful pastor still remain with me. “Friends,” he said with his hand casually in his pocket, “if you believe the very first verse of the Bible, then the rest should come easy.” He invited the congregation of men and women to evaluate our faith based upon Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
I think the pastor was right, but in my journey and conversations, the rest doesn’t always come easily. What seems to stump many Christians in their spiritual journey is not faith in God, but having the faith that God, Creator of the Universe, knows and loves them. Christ’s radical love seems to be so unfathomable, that Jesus would choose to enter this world—one full of beauty and with seemingly no limit to heartache—to save your soul and mine.
And seemingly no limit to heartache.
On my better days, I pull myself early from bed, slip my feet into worn slippers, and scuff to the kitchen for coffee. As the machine sputters and drips, songbirds and a peeking sunrise greet me. I take that first sip and steal a glance at my growing boys still snoozing in their beds. The fuzzy feelings are warmer than my coffee mug.
My worst days don’t start so lovely. I resent the interrupting sunrise that comes too soon through the curtains. I’m fooled by the comfort of my bed as if trials won’t come if I can only hide in a pile of cozy quilts. But I’ve learned this: Jesus didn’t sleep in or avoid trouble by embracing comfort. Our Lord didn’t hide from the hard stuff, and He certainly didn’t shy away from suffering.
So, neither should we.
Whether I’m attempting to use a new eye-liner pen, to try a new recipe, or even write a novel, I know to look to those who are more esteemed as an example. As believers, our greatest example for all things—from celebrating to suffering—is Jesus Christ.
As we embark upon the Easter season, let us look to Christ’s Passion as an example for how to approach suffering. For on the cross, Jesus embraced human brokenness and made suffering redemptive. Jesus transformed suffering from something dreadful to something powerful. Something that, dare I say, can be good.
If we would embrace all the loss, pain, brokenness, and afflictions as a way to connect with Jesus, it changes suffering from useless misery to one of the most impactful parts of our faith. We all endure suffering, from small sorrows to sizable ones. Use those moments, those long days and sleepless nights to turn your heart toward the cross. To Jesus and to His merciful love.
Give purpose to the pain.
Confession: I don’t do tasks (or do them well) if I don’t see a reason for them. I’m not quick to obey rules if I don’t see a safety or orderly connection. I would never get on a treadmill if I didn’t know exercise was good for me. I’d be first, second, and third in line for the all-you-can-eat dessert bar if I didn’t know how awful I’d feel later. It’s human nature to need to know—to really, really know—the “why” before we welcome the unpalatable “what.”
At some point in our lives, suffering will come again. Don’t let it be for nothing. It should never be useless. Let it drive your heart and soul Heavenward through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, scripture study, and acts of service. Most of all, may you never waste suffering by not letting it draw you into our Savior’s loving arms and connecting you to Him and eternal salvation.
Neena is a Kentucky wife, mother, and beekeeper.
Her first novel, The Bird and the Bees, is a Christian contemporary romance set to be released in April 2020. Visit her at wordslikehoney.com.