As I passed by the receptionist’s desk at my church, the face of a handsome man caught my eye. It was the picture of a brother in Christ who has been imprisoned for his faith. I picked up the prayer card on the top of the stack and said a quick prayer for the man and his young family. I have been carrying it in my purse ever since, a reminder to pray.
Farshid Fathi was arrested on 26th December 2010 and held in Evin prison, Tehran. He is married and has two young children. In March 2011 his family raised the $200,000 for his bail, but when they went to complete the formalities, they were told he could not be released. No formal charges have been made. (from Elam.com)
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." 1 Corinthians 1:3-7
So, what types of sufferings are considered "the sufferings of Christ"? It seems clear when we hear of someone like Farshid who is imprisoned in a faraway country for professing faith in Christ. But what is our personal application? What about me? Which of my "sufferings" or inconveniences can be seen as an opportunity to identify with the sufferings of Christ? When a brick shatters my windshield? When the airline loses my bag? (After all, I was coming home from a business trip where we were discussing the need to encourage spiritual dependence in the lives of our organization's local leaders!) Since I was on a ministry trip, is this a "suffering of Christ"? What if I had been on vacation with my friend, though? Is it all-of-the-sudden just to be considered a daily frustration with no eternal significance?
I don't want to fall into a trap of compartmentalizing my life. I want to live it all to the glory of God - in my work and in my rest. While there is a distinction in types of suffering, I think that Christ does identify with the frustrations of living in a fallen world – all of the frustrations. When a disciple's snoring may have kept Him awake at night or His favorite tunic got a tear He kept in in perfect perspective. Whatever category it falls into, I know that He kept it in eternal perspective which means it was a significant reminder of the reason He came to earth – this world is not perfect and the human beings inhabiting it are broken and dying.
It is comforting to know that He knows what these seemingly insignificant frustrations are like and that he wants to use them to refine us rather than belittle us for our pettiness. In that way, we are sharing in the "sufferings" of Christ.
At the same time, if I am not taking Ruth-like risks out of love for God and others, these frustrations do become pettiness and comfort becomes my idol of choice. I want to live a life that is characterized by taking risks for the glory of God. I want to be bold in loving others and sharing the Gospel with them. We are promised that these sorts of activities will result in persecution. Any negative response or reaction, I believe, qualifies for persecution. This is definitely "sharing in the sufferings of Christ".
So, whether I get my suitcase back from the airline or if the local government tries to stop me from sharing the life-giving message of the Gospel with students, there are a wide variety of opportunities to experience this mysterious blessing. I want to experience the whole spectrum of His magnificent sufferings!
Cheryl is on staff with Cru where she currently serves with digital strategies and in launching a new ministry among Millennials in cities across the country. For 12 years she called Russia home as she helped give national leadership to the campus ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. You can find her blogging at CherylOBoyd.Wordpress.com
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