DayBreaks for 09/22/11 – A Defective Understanding of Suffering
How do you feel about suffering? A rather silly question, isn’t it? How many people do you know who run around shouting, “Hurray! I’m suffering!” Not many, I’m sure. Especially not in America. In this country we have sufficient means to alleviate much of the suffering we face physically: various pain medications can be bought over the counter that do a great job of taking away pain. And if those aren’t enough, there are VERY powerful medications that are available only by prescription. There are many drugs on the market to help Americans escape from emotional and psychological pain, too. And the offices of counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists are jam packed with people trying to escape the pain of their daily lives, or at the very least, learn to cope with it. What America, and American Christians in particular, seem to struggle to grasp is that suffering, while painful, should be an intrinsic part of our life in Christ and not something we try to avoid at all costs.
Ajith Fernando, a Christian leader from Sri Lanka who ministers to the urban poor, writes:
“The church in each culture has its own special challenges—theological blind spots that hinder Christians from growing to full maturity in Christ …. I think one of the most serious theological blind spots in the western church is a defective understanding of suffering. There seems to be a lot of reflection on how to avoid suffering and on what to do when we hurt. We have a lot of teaching about escape from suffering and therapy for suffering, but there is inadequate teaching about the theology of suffering ….
“The “good life,” comfort, convenience, and a painless life have become necessities that people view as basic rights. If they do not have these, they think something has gone wrong …. One of the results of this attitude is a severe restriction of spiritual growth, for God intends us to grow through trials. – Ajith Fernando, The Call to Joy and Pain (Crossway Books, 2007), pp. 51-52
Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. – 1 Peter 4:13
PRAYER: Help us to accept suffering as an inseparable, and valuable, part of our life in You, Lord Jesus, and to give thanks for the chance to join you in your suffering. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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