If you’re a Christian, get ready for a troubled life. That’s what is in store for you as a follower of Jesus.
Jesus was the most beloved Son the Father has ever had and look at what happened to him. God the Father was “well pleased” to hang his one and only son on a cross.
Jesus was imprisoned, harassed, hunted, beaten, flogged, and murdered. It didn’t stop there, either. If we rewind and look back at every account of his life, we see that the Son of Man had no place to lay his head.
This is not to say that he never enjoyed a good meal—he was a friend of sinners and tax collectors. He had a good glass of wine on occasion. But when we look at the whole of his life. It was full of suffering and sacrifice (Hebrews 5:8).
It wasn’t just at the end of his life, but from the very beginning, he was suffering for our sake. If anyone had the right to entitlement, it was Jesus. He was God in the flesh and the very son of God—very God of very God, in fact—yet, what we see is that this son suffered tremendously at the hands of men. He also was put to death by the will of God.
So what do you think is going to happen to those of us who follow him?
I can easily fall into thinking that I deserve better than I’ve got, but this thinking is in vain. Do I really think that I deserve more than the Son of God got? Should I be treated better by my nice Christian friends than Jesus was treated by his most ferocious enemies?
Jesus lived an inglorious life on this earth—he was a man of no reputation. His friends abandoned him on one of the last nights of his life. Should I have a happier life than Jesus had while he was living on this earth?
We have it pretty good. In the United States, we may face some religious liberty issues from time to time, but we don’t face the kind of persecution that many of our fellow saints around the world get to experience.
I say “get to,” because the Bible seems to make it a praiseworthy thing when Christians face and suffer persecution. We have it “good,” but what’s really good is what we tend to perceive of as really bad. God’s kingdom is upside down like that.
So why would God allow for us to suffer or face such misery and hostility? He does so for several reasons that I can think of (though I’m sure there are many more).
1. God lets us suffer to humble us.
When life is going well for us, our spiritual senses are numbed and even dulled. When life is or feels picture perfect, it’s a lot easier to go on without giving much attention or credit or thanksgiving to God. Sure, sometimes we’ll pray a quick, “Thanks for blessing me, God” but it’s easy to get distracted by how great things are going for us that we forget to thank our Maker for the good gifts he gives to us.
We are less likely to pray and ask for God’s grace and peace in our lives in these moments, and we begin to trust in ourselves. Sometimes, we may even begin to think that we are where we are or we are who we are because of something we did. That’s when we need to be humbled the most—and thank God he brings us down in those moments in order to kill us.
2. God lets us suffer to strengthen us.
The way to the crown is first through the cross. That’s at least the way forward and upward that Jesus paved for his followers. The way up is first down. It is the humble whom God exalts, and not the proud. Whenever God brings suffering and misery upon us—it’s for our good and his glory, ultimately. It’s so that we would become weak. And when we are at our lowest and weakest, it’s right there that God is most strongly at work. As Paul often speaks in his first letter to Corinth:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (1 Cor 4:7-10)
When I am weak, he is strong. Therefore, I am stronger.
3. God lets us suffer because he loves us.
It sounds strange to say that our suffering is a mark of God’s love for us, but when we are being disciplined by God he tells us that it is always out of love.
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. (Heb 12:7-8)
Our Father in heaven knows best. The best fathers on this earth are those who not only let their children roam free and play, but who also discipline their children. Children need structure and guidance; sometimes they need to be told “no” when all they want to hear is “yes.” God’s “no” is always better than our yes. And God’s “yes” is always better than our "no."
That’s because, when all is said and done, all the promises of God find their "yes" in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20). Jesus is God’s love put on display for us. God so loved us, that he gave his only Son for us, so that we might become sons and daughters who are loved—and who love.