Suffering for God’s Sake

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In my thinking, Christians (in particular) often feel that any abuse experienced is a sign of faith, something we are required to experience and suffer through. There are even verses in the Bible (I use ESV for all quotes) that seem to uphold such a view. For example:

  1. Romans 5:3-5Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
  2. 2 Corinthians 1:5: For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
  3. Philippians 1:29-3029 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
  4. 2 Timothy 2:3: Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
  5. 1 Peter 3:17: For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

How do we protect ourselves when it appears our very faith commits us to endure suffering, to be constantly injured? Well, our first step is to discover what these Scriptures are actually saying. Are they truly saying that we must experience suffering, that we must accept it as our lot in life?

Let’s look at them again:

  1. If you read further in Romans, and seek out what Paul is talking about, you will discover, way down in Chapter 8, a conclusion to his words. Romans 8:37-39 makes it clear that Paul is talking about suffering persecution, pain and injury as a direct result of his actions and words in support of Christ. He is talking about people trying to force him to recant his faith by abusing and assaulting him. This is not a discussion about how he is being treated within the sanctity of a familial or intimate relationship! This is about standing firm in your faith and refusing to allow ANYTHING to separate you from God’s love and protection. God won’t leave us, and He begs us to never leave Him, regardless of what anyone else might do to us.
  2. In 2 Corinthians, again we only need to look further down, this time not so far, but in the same chapter we read at verse 6: “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.” The early Christians suffered a great deal. It was a different time and a different place. They were preaching completely new theology, very few people wanted to hear it and many would do anything possible to shut them up. Paul was willing to suffer in order to pave the way so that those who came after him did not need to suffer the same atrocities he was subjected to.
  3. In Philippians, we need to look above these verses to find the context. Look at verses 27 & 28. It is a call to “stand firm” in the faith. To not allow the abuses and assaults and trials to turn them away from God. It is not a blanket sentence against all believers to be abused for any and every reason.
  4. Timothy is pleaded with to stand with God. To not let go of his faith, to never stop speaking out, teaching others, no matter what. Jesus Christ is worth some suffering! He is worth being beaten and even giving your life for! Who are you suffering for? Jesus or something or someone else?
  5. Peter. Read that whole chapter. Look at verses 14 and 15: “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, ….”  It doesn’t get much clearer than that. “Suffer for righteousness sake“. This isn’t about suffering for the sake of suffering. This is about standing for what is right and good, no matter what others say or do against you.

Also, have a look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Here is a perfect description of a church family. A community of believers and how they should get along. They are implored to act as a family with each other, to love and work together as a family should. How can we believe that God would have us live otherwise in our families than to live in accordance with these standards? How can we for an instant believe that violence, assault, insult, and abuses within our intimate families and homes are acceptable in the eyes of God when we read these words? We are to show honor to one another. We are to share each others sufferings and trials. We are to respect each other for the role each person gives to the unit of a family. Verse 25 says “… there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

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Finally, I leave you with John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Read that carefully… it doesn’t say give up your life, or allow someone to take it. It says to lay it down. To sacrifice it for the sake of love. Abuse is not love and allowing your life to be destroyed is not an act of love either. Jesus laid down His life in a sacrifice to make our lives better. How does allowing someone to abuse you and destroy you make any one else’s life better? Ask yourself how that is an act of love.

If you look further into the Old Testament, every time God’s children cried out to Him because they were suffering abuse and affliction, He rescued them. God does not leave us in a place of abuse. He protects His own. He will draw us out when we call on Him. There isn’t always a magic cure. He won’t necessarily strike down the one being abusive, though it appears that also sometimes happens. Sometimes, as in the case of Moses and Egypt, we have to take the difficult step, the courageous blind move to leave the abusive situation. It’s drastic, it’s immense and it’s often questioned, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

If God is calling you out of your abusive marriage or relationship and you are delaying because you believe you deserve the abuse, or worse that God wants you to live a life of abuse… Please… ask Him! Obey Him. Walk away when He tells you it is time to go, and don’t look back.

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