The Privilege Of Suffering

4 03 2020

Last year was a tough year for our family. We lost someone who was very close to us unexpectedly. We did question then and continue to question now why God would have taken someone like him so early who was doing so much for the Kingdom of God. As you know, the loss of someone like that hurts. Sometimes the pain goes deeper than you believe you can bear.

I really hesitate to write about suffering because I feel like my suffering pales in comparison to others. Someone asked once, “What is the hardest language in the world to learn?” The answer is… the one you are currently learning. I think this is the case with suffering. We don’t need to compare our suffering. We just need to acknowledge that, regardless of the circumstances, suffering is hard in general.

I’ll be honest and say that I find it difficult to understand suffering. Why has God used suffering as a tool to sanctify us? Could He have not used Oatmeal Cream Pies, so that the more Little Debbies you eat, the holier you become? I could get on board with that plan!


I think one reason that God chose suffering to make us more like Him was because there is nothing else that draws us deeper into him. There is nothing else that makes us rely solely upon Him. In our darkest moments and in the time we are experiencing our most excruciating pain is when we truly cry out for help and find that God has been with us all along. In the place of suffering is when we finally shed our pride and fully understand that apart from Jesus we are nothing.

What is absolutely crazy is that we don’t serve a God who has just arbitrarily placed this burden on us. He actually fully understands! Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Although he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. After he was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” (italics mine) In my deepest heartbreak, when I feel Jesus’ hand on my shoulder, I know it is a hand that has been nail-pierced.


Another reason for suffering is found in Colossians 1:24 where Paul said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for his body, that is, the church.” In the previous passage in Hebrews it says that through Jesus’ sufferings He was perfected. Paul is saying here that the plan has not been made complete. Jesus is perfect and has completed for us everything that is needed to be made righteous by dying on the cross in our place. However the plan to get this good news to a lost and dying world is not yet complete and will be completed through the suffering of His servants.

Paul didn’t say that he was begrudgingly and bitterly walking through suffering for the sake of the gospel. He said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings…” Paul considered it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ and His gospel.

Helen Roseveare

This past Monday evening at a class called Perspectives, our teacher, Jessie Smith, introduced us to a woman named Helen Roseveare. Helen was a missionary to the Congo 1953-1973. In 1964 a brutal civil war broke out where Helen along with other workers were captured. On October 29 of that year Helen was brutally beaten and raped by her captors. She later recounted: (taken from this article)

On that dreadful night, beaten and bruised, terrified and tormented, unutterably alone, I had felt at last God had failed me. Surely He could have stepped in earlier, surely things need not have gone that far. I had reached what seemed to be the ultimate depth of despairing nothingness.

In this darkness, however, she sensed the Lord saying to her:

You asked Me, when you were first converted, for the privilege of being a missionary. This is it. Don’t you want it? . . . These are not your sufferings. They’re Mine. All I ask of you is the loan of your body.

She eventually received an “overwhelming sense of privilege, that Almighty God would stoop to ask of me, a mere nobody in a forest clearing in the jungles of Africa, something He needed.”

This theme of “privilege” became prominent in Helen’s ministry. In her Urbana ’76 address, she said:

One word became unbelievably clear, and that word was privilege. He didn’t take away pain or cruelty or humiliation. No! It was all there, but now it was altogether different. It was with him, for him, in him. He was actually offering me the inestimable privilege of sharing in some little way the edge of the fellowship of his suffering.

In the weeks of imprisonment that followed and in the subsequent years of continued service, looking back, one has tried to “count the cost,” but I find it all swallowed up in privilege. The cost suddenly seems very small and transient in the greatness and permanence of the privilege.

I heard Helen’s story, and I found myself utterly lacking. God, give me the courage and faith to see my suffering as a privilege to carry your message of love to a dying world.

Take a look at this video. This is one of the last videos that Helen recorded before she passed away in 2016 at the age of 91.

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