Salvation is a free gift. Yet it came at a great cost.
I used to think my part was to simply receive the gift. Which is true. A gift isn’t something you earn. You simply open your hands and receive it.
However, I found myself a little confused as to what this gift entailed.
I thought that since Jesus took on my punishment, my life should be painless. Jesus suffered so I wouldn’t have to, right? If I suffered as well, wouldn’t that somehow negate Jesus’ suffering? Yet I would read verses like this: “… if indeed we share in the sufferings of Christ in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:17)
Share in his sufferings?
The concept didn’t compute, so I usually just skipped over it.
Over time, pain was something I accepted as an undeniable reality of my post-salvation life, but last Sunday as someone was reading Mark’s account of the crucifixion, I grasped the why behind suffering more deeply. I began to understand that every hardship, whether physical or emotional, is an opportunity for me to know Jesus more.
My salvation came at a high cost.
And I could receive it rather naively, like a child oblivious to the sacrifices of its parents. I could slip into heaven with the small measure of gratefulness a child is capable of – genuine but ignorant. God would still let me in.
But that’s not what God wants.
He wants me to understand the price so that I can fully grasp the victory. And I can only understand by experiencing some of it for myself.
When I was a child, I came to salvation from a place of hopelessness.
Jesus found me in my place of brokenness and gave me hope. He encountered me in my loneliness and fear and showed me what love was. And I was deeply grateful. I loved him with all the strength and understanding I had.
But in the ensuing years, God has not always shielded me from hardship. And sometimes I’ve been tempted to question why. Actually, more often than not, I’ve blamed myself, thinking that I must have done something wrong to be experiencing such pain.
Shouldn’t I be happier? I would think.
But, God has shown me again and again that He is in the storm and trial. He isn’t punishing me or condemning me, He is drawing me closer to Him.
Difficulties can be consequences of poor decisions, but sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they are actually God-ordained.
Suffering is good for us.
It refines our character. It makes us more empathetic, purges us of entitlement, and stretches our ability to endure and persevere.
Suffering gives us opportunity to have faith. When things make sense, you don’t really have to trust God.
And, suffering brings us closer to Jesus.
Children are a delight to their parents even when they are useless newborns.
God delighted in me when I was nothing, when I was helpless, when I was completely oblivious to the price He paid for me. But as I grow older in my faith, He wants to draw me closer. He wants me to understand more fully who He is, just how good He is. He wants me to mature into a daughter he can trust, with whom He can share His secrets.
I want to become that daughter, who knows her Father, who knows His ways.
So this Good Friday, I’m choosing to embrace suffering.
When pain enters my life, my first instinct is to try to get over it, cover it, or avoid it. But lately, I’ve been making an effort to press into it. I’ve been choosing to believe that God allows pain for my good––to uncover issues that need to be addressed, to refine my character, and to bring me closer to Him.
The Good News is, it doesn’t end with suffering. It ends with reward.
The reward is not a comfortable life or recognition and success here on earth. It’s something far greater, something we can’t even comprehend. I look forward to that unimaginable reward, but also find these others brightening my path: The joy of being filled with God’s fierce, tender love; the peace of knowing nothing that matters can ever be taken from me; and the delight of finding that I have pleased the God of the Universe, the only One whose opinion is actually of consequence.
The way is through. Through the pain and difficulty. This life won’t be easy. In fact, Jesus promised it would be hard. But take heart. He is with you in the journey, and glory awaits.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”
– Romans 8:18-19