I love to be comfortable. I hate to be uncomfortable. A pretty easy formula to understand. I spend a lot of my life figuring out ways to keep myself at the highest level of comfort- and quite honestly, it isn’t difficult.
I auto-start my car on freezing cold mornings. With the click of a button, standing cozy in my doorway, I hear the motor start to purr and I close the door quickly so the cold air doesn’t touch my bare feet. I pour another cup of hot coffee, add in too much sugar and cream to make it perfectly adapted to my liking, and get myself ready to go.
I have plans with a friend that I know needs me, but quite honestly it was a long day and my head doesn’t hurt yet, but I know it might if I don’t go rest right now. All it takes is a quick text “Hey can we re-schedule?” and just like that, I am on my couch in my pajamas.
When my heart aches, I have an extensive support system that would drop whatever they were doing at the moment to walk alongside me. I know pain, but I don’t know what it’s like to feel pain alone. I know anxiety. I know what it’s like to be so caught up in your own head and thoughts that you don’t know if you’ll ever find your way out. But time after time, I have people, friends, loved ones pulling me out and bringing me back. I have never been alone.
I don’t know what it means to really suffer. I don’t even have the right to use that word in the context of my life compared to the majority of the world. I have been through heartache that I thought was going to be the end of me, situations that were awful and confusing and hurtful, periods of life that were less than ideal, but I don’t know real suffering. I don’t know what it means to not have a meal. Or a place to sleep. Or a family to love. I don’t know what abuse feels like. Or slavery. Or chronic physical pain. I don’t know grief the way many do. I don’t know suffering.
I don’t think God holds it against me that I was given this life. I don’t think it’s bad to enjoy my coffee how I like it, relax on the couch with a good TV show, or re-schedule with a friend when I don’t feel good. I have incredible advantages in my life, and I don’t feel guilty for receiving them; however when that appreciation turns into an expectation or demand for those luxuries, I think it saddens God.
I was reading in Acts 5 tonight about the Apostles who were persecuted for spreading the gospel. When they were before the officials having their fate decided, a pharisee named Gamaliel said these words to the leaders in the Apostles’ defense:
“Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
His words persuaded the officials to let the Apostles go. Instead of being killed, they were flogged. (beaten with a whip or stick.) After the flogging, it says the men, after being beaten, left “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)
Worthy of suffering.
Not only did they endure torture for spreading the news of Christ, they rejoiced in the torture. They were so honored to be considered worthy of that responsibilty. To carry his name.
I don’t think God wants me to run headfirst into the nearest sign of danger or persecution. I don’t think he wants me to throw my common sense to the wind and bring upon all types of misfortune. But I do think He wants my heart open to suffering. Whatever that suffering might look like in my life. Whether it be “real” big deal suffering, or day to day suffering of an anxious heart- I don’t need to fear it. I need to embrace suffering. To allow him to work in the suffering.
To be considered worthy of suffering. Can I fully understand that? That I am considered worthy to carry His name and suffer for it? To be honest, I hope God continues to shield me from the kind of suffering I have never felt. By no means do I want to go through traumatic circumstances or feel the type of pain those Apostles and Christians all over the world feel in this very moment. But, I know that if I am brought there, to a place of pain so deep and so raw, His will WILL be carried through IN my suffering. Not around it. Not below it. Not close to it. Not 4 degrees above it or a pair of thick, warm socks behind it. His Name will be carried THROUGH and IN my suffering. And I hope I am strong enough to rejoice like the Apostles did.
Blessings not chins,