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“It’s Given to Me to Suffer for Christ”

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MariaD

Authored by Mara Hodler

I am a creature of comfort. I don’t want luxury, but I do love comfort. I like—no, strike that—LOVE creature comforts, such as warm cups of tea (with cookies, yes!!), soft blankets, cuddling with my kids, a plate of pasta, an evening laughing with friends, the joy of a shirt that fits just right, kisses from my husband, a pretty place to sit. Yes, these are my needs. These are the things I seek out. I also like knowing that everyone I love is comfortable.

Let me tell you about the things I don’t seek out: pain (of any kind), suffering (also of any kind), distress, and deprivation. I really dislike anything that will leave me cold, tired, or hungry—let alone injured or in pain. I like things to be easy. That’s just the honest truth.

There is this verse in the Bible that really conflicts with what I consider my “needs”: “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.”1

This passage was written to the Christians of Philippi when Paul was in prison. In the previous verses Paul was talking about how honored he felt to be in prison for preaching the gospel, and expressing how whether he lived or died, his life belonged to God.

So there I have it in black and white: “It is given to me to suffer for Christ.”

So what’s a comfort-seeking girl supposed to do with that? How do I prepare myself to suffer? I’m not really sure. But I find it interesting that in the preceding verse Paul says that it’s given to us not only to believe in Jesus, but also to suffer for Him. I feel like Paul is letting us know that it’s not just a “feel good” religion where we find comfort, hope, encouragement, peace, and all that good stuff. Our faith in Jesus is also something we can expect to suffer for.

This is something that you might appreciate a “heads up” on. Maybe no one has ever told you about religious persecution, and if you experience it, you might be like, “Whoa, I did not sign up for this!” Religious persecution can seem so far removed from our universe that we don’t realize that even today there are people whose faith costs them heavily in terms of personal comfort, freedoms, and even their lives.

It can be a huge shock that our faith comes with a “must be willing to suffer” clause. And we thought our problems were keeping up with crushes, Facebook, school, and TV shows. Boy, were we wrong! Jesus prepared our hearts for it when He said: “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”2

Persecution is actually a promise for living the way God wants you to live. Paul says this in 2 Timothy 3:12: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”3 So persecution can be a sign that your choices and lifestyle are probably right and godly.

I decided to put a face on what persecution can look like, just to prepare my heart and so that when it comes, I will remember that this is what I have signed up for.

1. Being called out for my beliefs.

This could mean having to explain to some of my more secular friends that I believe in things like intelligent design and being ridiculed for those beliefs. Or taking flack for not condoning certain kinds of behaviors or lifestyles. Or perhaps watching my kids being pushed out of the “cool crowd” for choosing to be true to their faith. I think that, while still uncomfortable, this is the mildest form of persecution, and also, in most societies, the most common form.

2. Having someone go out of their way to make my or my family’s life miserable because of our faith.

Maybe someone will spread malicious stories about me and my loved ones. This could affect our social circle, club memberships, employment, and cause hardship. This could go a step further, with someone putting our physical safety at risk.

3. Being persecuted by the law and the government.

I live in a country that boasts of religious freedom, and I love that we have it. But I also know that this may not always be the case, and it certainly is not the case in many countries today. Religious freedom is something that amazing people of the Christian faith have fought and given their lives for, and I do not take it for granted. It could be taken away.

There are countries where being a Christian is a crime punishable by imprisonment, fines, and in the most extreme cases, death.

Obviously this is the most dangerous, uncomfortable, and scary type of persecution. But this is where we can take comfort (ah, comfort!) in knowing that Jesus experienced the same things. He was also persecuted.

There’s a lot to be said about God’s grace, protection, miracles, and strength that comes when times are hard, which includes persecution—but that’s for another time. What I’m talking about here is simply making the connection between believing in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and understanding that that very belief may cost you on a very personal level.

I don’t really know what to tell you about how to be ready for persecution. I have come to the conclusion that it has to do with the same kind of love that makes us ready to fight and/or suffer for those we love. It’s a choice we make when we choose to love someone. We don’t know what each day loving them will cost, but we start the day loving them, and we end the day loving them.

And don’t worry. Jesus does the same thing for us.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”4

And my favorite promise:

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”5


Footnotes
1 1 Philippians 1:29 NIV
2 John 15:20 KJV
3 New International Version
4 Romans 8:35 NIV
5 Romans 8:37 NIV

Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2016 by The Family International


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