Thursday, April 2, 2015

Necessary Suffering

There are many reasons why people don't pray. Some people don't pray because they don't believe. Others may not pray due to busyness or lack of discipline. However, a few people are timid to pray because “I’m afraid of what God will ask me to do.” And in all reality, that is a very good reason not to pray. At the very least, this reason implies that they know the power of prayer. It's interesting that whenever angels appear in scripture, the first thing they say is “fear not.” They say “fear not,” but we are afraid, and we have every right to be. To be used and changed by God is a scary thing.

I wonder sometimes if one of the reasons many (American) Christians struggle to grow spiritually is because we do not expect to suffer. In fact, we do everything we can to avoid it. Most of us are willing to long as it doesn't interfere too much with my schedule. Most of us are willing to help long as it doesn't require me to sacrifice. Most of us are willing to long as it doesn't affect my current life style. We seem to assume that we should not have to bear any heavy burdens. We seem to assume we have no cross to carry. We are quick to conclude that God would never want us to struggle or suffer for the sake of others. 

A few disclaimers before we move on: (1) I struggle with this "comfort" mentality as much as anyone. (2) I am not advocating that we work ourselves to death. (3) I am not saying we should seek out pain and suffering for the sake of being spiritual.

With that said, I rarely see God call someone to a life of comfort and ease in the Bible. I'm still looking (because I really want to find it), but it's not there. God's call typically requires people to leave their comfort zone and it usually includes trials of some sort. The early church did not seek out pain and persecution. However, their view of suffering was much different than ours. They rejoiced when they suffered for the cause of Christ. They even counted suffering as a privilege! I know...weird, right? 

But maybe they understood something we don't. Maybe really loving others requires sacrifice and struggle. Maybe really serving God requires surrender and faith. Maybe suffering brings us closer to Christ in ways that are not possible otherwise.

Don't get me wrong: it is not a sin to own a couch or to go on a vacation. However, in our culture we need to be careful that comfort and ease do not become our main priorities. We need to be careful that self-indulgence does not become our god. We need to be careful to heed God's call even if it requires suffering...because it probably will.