Many do not have the privilege – yes, the privilege – of choosing their suffering. They simply suffer. Some manage to fight or find their way out of it, struggling and gasping for breath of life in the process. Others simply live with it, survive through it, and suffer still.
But what do I mean by the ‘privilege of choosing suffering’?
Suffering of a higher order – for lack of a more apt expression – or suffering of a rarer kind, is suffering that is chosen. By the one who is willing – and yet, ‘willing to do what?’ you may ask. Well, the ultimate suffering one chooses is probably out of the willingness to give up one’s life, one’s comfort, one’s privileges. For what? Perhaps for a cause, for a love, for a people, for a purpose, for a belief.
Suffering as such can have no greater comparison than the suffering of Jesus – on the Cross. Suffering unmerited, undeserved, and yet suffering chosen, for a reason.
I believe Jesus is the Word of Life. The Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come or go to God apart from knowing Him as Lord and Saviour, recognizing that He can to pay our ransom. The ransom for our sins. Not that God wants to condemn us, because He clearly says in the Bible that He wants all men to come to Him and be saved. But it is you and I. It is our selfish choices, our sins and rebellion against our Creator that estranges us from Life itself. So it is not God who condemns us, but our own black heart and selfish vices that condemn us. It is so clear.
Jesus chose to suffer in our place. Imagine you are convicted for a crime and you have to spend years in jail. Or if you live in a place where the laws are more severe, maybe you’ll be stoned to death or have a limb chopped off. But then here comes a Man, who did nothing wrong in His entire life. Yet He says, He’s willing. He loves you so much that He does not want you to die – both a spiritual and physical death. He wants you to experience life, true life, abundantly, fully, wholly – in His grace and truth. So this Man says to the Judge, ‘No! Don’t punish him. Take me instead. Accuse me instead. I will suffer at your hands. I will die in his place so he can live. I will take his wrong upon me and he will be cleared of his crime.’
That, in essence, is what Jesus did for me. And for you, too. If you should come to recognize it with not only your human mind, but with your human heart and finally, your inner spirit.
So it simply blows my mind, when I think on the love of Jesus. It compels me, moves me, drives me to live in a new way. His love and his sacrifice for me transforms me from the inside out.
Jesus chose suffering, and suffering for a cause. So too must I. I realize now that I should be much more afraid of being comfortable than of being called to follow Jesus into the difficult places in life. I think there are many things Jesus said, but one thing he never said to the crowds or to his disciples. He never said, ‘You will be safe and comfortable when you choose to follow Me.’
Instead he said, ‘If anyone wants to follow Me, he must first deny himself, take up his cross and then come after me.’
To take up my cross, is to do what is difficult for me to do. Is it to be patient? To help someone in need that I wouldn’t usually want to associate myself with? To be obedient in ways that will challenge my commitment? To be less selfish and more giving? What is my cross? What is your cross? Jesus is challenging you and I to forget our selfish wants and instead find freedom – yes, true freedom – in following Him and finding our identity in Him. That’s when we are the most fulfilled in our hearts and souls.
Jesus did not suffer to survive, he suffered to SAVE. You and I.
Jesus did not suffer for self, he suffered to SERVE. Us.
It is radical. It is mind-blowing. It is transformative. And it has changed my life forever.
See, as long as we are in this world, we will face trouble, suffering, pain, hurt, injustice, oppression, unrighteousness, loss, death and doubt. It’s not because God wants it or wills it. But it is the result of a world estranged from Him. A world who wants to live its own way. People who are selfish, conceited, deceitful and rebellious. Tell me, isn’t it obvious that all the suffering in the world is perpetuated by us humans? It starts with pride, with anger, with jealousy, with envy, with hatred, with selfishness, with greed, with want for fame and power. And so the world continues to suffer the consequences of each of our individual choices in life, and sometimes it is not even we ourselves who choose it, but it is the choices or the tyranny of others who cause use hurt and suffering.
But my earnest prayer is that I will have the opportunities to choose my suffering, to walk by faith, to trust and obey. To not give up in freedom what others had not given up in persecution for their faith! Suffering will come in this life. But Jesus, no matter what, I choose You. Because when all the world fails, and as it is, everything in this life is broken already, to whom else shall I turn to but You?
~ J a n i e ll e