The Day I Got “Woke”
The lightbulb went on for me when I was in late elementary school. I was blessed to be the daughter of a very biblically-centered pastor, who clearly taught the word of God from the pulpit week after week. Dad was preaching on Romans 8:32 one particular Sunday, and he quoted the verse, “…God, who did not even spare his own Son, but offered him for us all!…will he not also freely give us all things?” Now, I don’t remember every sermon Dad preached, but this one affected me so profoundly, that it has stuck in my mind all these years. I am fairly certain Dad’s point was focused on the part about giving us all things with Christ, because I remember my mind circling back around to the first part of the verse while Dad preached on. My thoughts wanted to dismiss what he was saying because my thoughts were riveted on, “But if He wouldn’t spare His own Son who He loves so much, He’s not going to spare me, either! Yikes!”
I wasn’t so sure I liked that bit of the gospel, but in that moment my young eyes “got” what so many of today’s professing believers seem to have missed—that the Christian life is no cake walk. If our perfect Savior “learned obedience by what He suffered,” how much more do we? If God chastens everyone He calls a son, then rather than seeing our sufferings as unwelcome events to be avoided at all costs, we should press into Him in the midst of struggle to glean what He is teaching us there.
This is not a mindset we get to overnight. All of this did not instantly fall upon the understanding of a rather appalled pre-teen, but it did begin to open my eyes to how often this principle of suffering as God’s will was mentioned in the scriptures, and to begin to develop a theology of suffering which did not leave me questioning my faith or salvation each time I was blindsided by life taking a sudden left turn.
The good news is there are many promises attached to the pronouncements of the reality of suffering, including that we would be given all things with Him. If we suffer with Him, we will also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). We are promised that our chastening would yield a harvest of righteousness if we allow ourselves to be trained by it (Hebrews 12:11). We are comforted with the promise that those who suffer under the will of God will ultimately be restored by Him (1 Pet 4:19; 5:8-11). And we are encouraged that our suffering Savior understands through personal experience whatever our struggles and heartaches and agonies in life are, and will be with us in the midst of them. We are encouraged by His example to let the promised joy on the other side of our crosses help us to endure with hope.
We often don’t think about developing a theology of suffering until we are in the midst of it, but we might do better in the midst of it if we have thought about it beforehand. One thing is for certain, we don’t make it through life without experiencing suffering at some level, so it’s to our benefit to be prepared with truth and encouragement to meet the challenge when it comes. Besides studying the Bible itself, a few years ago I read a really helpful book, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, by Tim Keller. I recommend it as a great place to start to see suffering through God’s perspective.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
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