Consecration through Suffering
In recent weeks I've had a terrible time as a substitute teacher. None of my 'tricks' seem to be working. It's my personal policy not to yell at students and to be patient. I also try to enjoy the day and bring joy into the students' lives. But recently, after an exhausting day of trying to maintain barely a thread of order, I'll drive home from elementary school feeling incompetent with a splitting headache. I wonder, "Is it worth it for me to do this work?"
Jesus responds to me, "Yes, it is worth it. This is how you help Me consecrate the world."
But how does my suffering help heal the suffering world. How do I help make whole again the desecrated world caused by the sin of Adam? Didn't Jesus do that once and for all on the cross? For ages, Christians have asked these questions as they share in the suffering of Christ.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Paul explains that since we are co-heirs with Christ in God's kingdom, we share in the sufferings of the cross as well. The whole point of the sufferings of the cross were so we may be healed as Isaiah pointed out hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
But suffering in and of itself does no good. If I suffer for suffering's sake, I just am in pain. But if I suffer for God's Glory through faith in the transformative power of the cross, then good fruit is produced. However, most often we do neither. The most tempting feature of suffering is to suffer for one's own sake. How often do we put on a pitiful face to others and say with our outward expressions and words, "See, look how pitiful my lot is." Then the glory goes to me. The eyes of others are cast on me rather than directed toward God.
Our suffering must be for God's glory for it to have the transformative power of the cross. I've found that because I'm so often tempted to moan pitifully to gain attention, I must hold my tongue. Though too often, I choose my glory over God's, which is my confession.
Likewise, every so often I end up getting terrible headaches. I tend to moan and complain about them to my wife. Of course, all that does is pour my pain on her. What good is my suffering doing if I spread the pain to another person? But there is a person on whom our pain should be fixed. And that person is Jesus on the cross. That is why God hung there. Through the cross all of our pain and suffering is transformed into joy.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Jesus lay his life down for us, so we may have joy in full. We do the same for others. We love others, which involves suffering for others so they may have joy. The irony shines bright. This is our job as Christians—to help consecrate the world through suffering in the love of Christ for the glory of God.
It's no coincidence that at the Holy Supper the bread is broken. The bread is eaten. The bread suffers in order to make us whole again.
Those kids who have terrible behavior, those adults who trouble us to no end, we suffer for them so by our wounds through Christ's wounds, their wounds may heal. This is our great and terrible job which is only possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.