Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to see things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter. Philippians 1:27-30
Embracing the will of God during the trials of life can prove difficult enough when we are certain of what He desires. But, submitting to God’s plan when we struggle to recognize it can seem like a grossly unfair task. Trials in which we feel that we have been unjustly treated or taken advantage of can push us to our breaking point. This is especially true if we think of ourselves as intentionally loving and loyal people. We question how a doting Father could allow us to be dealt with in such an unfair manner. Wouldn’t a caring God protect us from such mistreatment? Or at least allow us to defend ourselves? Seasons such as these lead us to question whether or not we have correctly discerned the will of God – especially if His will is our continued suffering.
I have often heard this saying offered to a brother or sister in Christ who has experienced some sort of unjust suffering, “God doesn’t want you to be a fool.” The saying infers that the individual being counseled should not allow himself or herself to be taken advantage of, or mistreated. Yet, while it is nice to imagine that we serve a God who would never call us to suffer unjustly, this is not the God described in His Word.
The truth is, sometimes God calls us to a season of suffering.
However, he does not call us to suffer for fun, or to terrorize us. Our suffering is not in vain. We serve a God who meticulously uses every victory, setback, laughter and tear to the good of those who love Him. He is a Father who sometimes calls us to difficult and unfair situations purposely.
And that purpose is that He might be glorified.
Why then, does He desire to be glorified? So that all men might be drawn unto Him.
As a child of God, called and loved, I know that He sees me, and has prepared me, for this season. There is nothing that I endure that His permissive will has not allowed. My discomfort, albeit temporary, is a both a minuscule, and important part of a greater, eternal plan of hope. Further, I understand that in this life suffering will come. So, instead of focusing on how unjustly I have been treated, I can choose to shift my eyes on the hope that is Christ during my time of suffering. For in truth, I am not capable, in my own power, to keep my mind off of my pain, or of my assailants. In fact, I have a natural habit of replaying sins against me over and over in my mind, which is counter productive to the forgiveness that is required of me. Also, as a child of God, I recognize my value, and I want to be protected as much, if not more, than I would want to see others protected.
If I care for myself at all, I am prone to the human affliction of self-preservation.
Therefore, if I wish to humble myself as Christ, forsaking the natural responses of anger, bitterness and pride, I must look to a higher power to enable me to do so. I must look to Christ, Himself. For, it is only by fixing my gaze on His love, grace, goodness, and power that I will walk, talk, and react like Him. Walking in humility presses us toward greater growth in, and a closer relationship with, Christ. It compels us to trust Him to vindicate and protect us, as we surrender up the right to vindicate and protect ourselves.
With that understanding, I can choose to live a life that reflects Christ, and is pleasing to God. I can choose to walk in love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. I can choose to turn my cheek to the one who would strike me (metaphorically speaking), offer more to the one who has already taken, and go further with the one who has unfairly requested me to go far more than I feel I should have had to.
To say this is not an easy task is a vastly huge understatement.
We will fail more times that we care to admit.
And when we do, we mustn’t give up on ourselves. We serve a God who has even planned for our failures. If and when we fail, we can repent, confess our sin, make amends if appropriate, and determine to become intentional in future opportunities to demonstrate humility, or if necessary, mercy. As we throw off our right to self-preserve, and take on the role of servant to Christ, we enlist the full power of God into our situations.
If however, we succeed, the reward is not only His good purpose fully manifested in our lives, but our lives used to manifest His perfect will in the lives of others. This is how we live like Christ, generously offering our lives not to those who believe they are taking it, but to the One who will use it to bring us, and our enemies, closer to Himself.
For further study: John 12:27-36, Acts 9:15-17, Luke 6:27-30, Philippians 1-2
For prayer on this topic visit today’s Hope & a Prayer devotional.
This post was linked at Christian Mommy Blogger.