Have you ever suffered for something you loved? Maybe it was training for a marathon, or some other sport. Maybe it was preparing for the toughest test of your life. Maybe you denied yourself to reach a goal, or to benefit your family or friends. Or, it could be something with darker meanings. Maybe it was enduring a tough divorce, or living with an abusive spouse. Maybe it was prison. When the suffering was done, how did you feel? Were you relieved it was over but proud of yourself for enduring it?
You might have something in common with Paul, who ended his letter to the Galatians by telling his detractors to buzz off. He had suffered enough because of the selfish actions of others. The apostle was fed up and he didn’t mind telling them. It wasn’t that Paul was unwilling to suffer more for Jesus’ sake. In other letters, Paul bragged of being in chains for Christ, or of all the ways he had been mistreated, tortured, for preaching the message of God.
Yet, here, he was simply done with taking the abuse. I think that humanizes Paul. He had suffered at the hands of small people for preaching the Gospel. He rejoiced at being able to say he had endured and persevered for Jesus’ sake, but he was tired, sore to the soul. He wanted it to stop. Even Jesus surely felt that way sometimes, fed up with rejection, fed up with the torture of the cross, but willing, even eager, to endure it for the glory of the Father.
Paul wasn’t comparing himself or his predicament to Christ. Instead, he was simply saying “I’ve suffered for this mission He gave to me, thankfully to His glory. But it hurt all the same. Lord willing, make it stop.”
Plenty of people today can identify with that line of thinking. I don’t want to suffer in life; I don’t want to have to endure pain or torture. But my prayer, like those of Jesus and Paul, is always “thy will and not mine be done.” I trust that God’s plan for me, even if it includes suffering, is for my good and the good of others. That He won’t give me more than I can bear. That He will be with me through it. And, when it happens, I pray it will quickly end and those who inflict it would simply move along.
As long as we have breath, though, there will be suffering in this fallen world. When it happens, let’s pray that it passes quickly and for Jesus’ strength throughout.
For further reading: Isaiah 44:5, 2 Corinthians 1:5, 2 Corinthians 11:21-33, Philippians 1:12-30, Colossians 1:24, 2 Timothy 3:12, Galatians 6:18
Lord, I pray for You strength, endurance, and patience through suffering.
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