Last night as I struggled against the insistent tears of hurt, I sat up in bed and told myself, “Abigail, don’t be silly. Suffering for doing what’s right might sound heroic and deserving of drama, but you’re losing sight of true suffering for what is right. Jesus suffered unlike you can ever imagine suffering and He learned obedience through the things which He suffered and has left us an example that we should follow in His footsteps. Which means it’s just what we should expect—all of us. And it works to teach us obedience. You are learning to be obedient to the Father and that’s just exactly a part of your Christian walk that you need work in.” Slowly, methodically I refuted my whining “Why did I get hurt? I didn’t deserve this” attitude. I reminded myself of my rebellion against God, my sin against His holiness and my utter helplessness to stand justified before God. Suddenly what I deserved came into focus like the slow turn of a camera lens: I deserve hell, utterly separated from God, hopeless, dark and agonized. It is only by His mercy that I am not a miserable, damned sinner. Perspective dampens the martyr’s tears and wells up within me the overwhelming joy. I am saved. From a horrible eternal existence without God. From exactly what I deserved. Jesus took the wrath that I deserved. Here I sit, moaning about something I didn’t deserve when He has left me that example. In that moment I knew that I was not suffering. My pain was healed. If the Lord of glory would rescue me from eternal punishment at the expense of Himself, He will do for me what is best. Why do I so lack trust and wallow in misery over things that should bring me joy? So, by His grace I did what was right. Do I suffer for it? Sheesh. Can it really be suffering if it is what God has allowed to teach me obedience? Obedience is only tested through the hard and painful things. Can it really be suffering if given from the loving hand of my Abba Father? Can it really be suffering when measured alongside the suffering of Christ?
Peter held it too much an honor to be crucified like his Lord and asked to be crucified upside down instead. Did he suffer for Christ? He said that suffering in the flesh helps us to forget our flesh and live instead for the will of God. That doesn’t sound to me like a tragedy, but a triumph.
I will learn to embrace the cross, the thorns, the nails if only they demonstrate that I am following the footsteps of Christ and will someday be like Him.
“For even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” 1 Peter 3:14
Teach me, Lord, to measure pain
Alongside of my greater gain
The things that make me seek to hide
Drive me to Thy wounded side.
And there I place my hand and see
That Thou wast wounded more for me
And through Thy pain Thou learned to kneel.
So I will learn and Thou wilt heal.