No Ordinary Sufferings
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
-The Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:24
The Painful Shift
Our family recently moved from the city to the country and downsized significantly. In this process I’ve realized how entrenched in city life and in my life in the city I’ve been. If you asked me six months ago if I wanted to move closer to my church and give up my house in the process, I would have told you that I was praying in that direction. But now that it’s here, I’m painfully aware of a significant struggle in my heart. Wow, this hurts. I had no idea I loved my life there so much!
I Love the Church, But . . .
Part of this move had to do with my husband becoming an elder at our church and our increasing involvement with folks there. Both of us wanted this to happen. But now that it’s actually come, I’m not so sure. Leave my home? Leave the convenience and activity of the city? Um…can I reconsider?
In his graciousness the Lord has been speaking to me: what would I be willing to sacrifice to provide a platform for my husband’s greater ministry to our church? He’s calling me into suffering so that Phil can be a greater blessing.
But what I’m going through is not just generic suffering or blessing. It’s filling up the sufferings of Christ. Not that Christ’s suffering is incomplete or that I’m atoning in any way for sin. But there is a call to suffering for the sake of blessing that I’ve been aware of, and walking in, for years.
But I missed the holiness of this present suffering because of the ordinariness of it. Could it be that I am fulfilling the suffering of Christ when I pick up oak leaves off the kitchen floor or smell a chicken ranch instead of orange blossoms? Bringing blessing to our sweet country church means some tears for me in boringly mundane, seemingly insignificant ways. Could these sights and smells really fill up the holy sufferings of the Christ?
Now for the really good news: From the incarnation till the ascension, and in some ways, even now, Jesus suffered so that I could be blessed. But His life is not just an example of suffering. It’s also my righteousness in my suffering. In all the ways that I failed to respond to this suffering with rejoicing, I am still counted righteous in His sight.
Moreover, through Jesus’ suffering He’s completed all the suffering that was lacking on my part—so that I could both be blessed and a blessing—so that ultimately I would know fullness of joy at His right hand and pleasures forever.
Here’s my encouragement: Don’t miss the fact that your suffering is meaningful simply because it’s mundane. In all the ways you do miss it, complaining or feeling sorry for yourself, remember that you’ve been given Christ’s righteous record.
Along with her husband, Phil, Elyse is the mother of three and grandmother to six. She and Phil attend Valley Center Community Church in Valley Center, California. She holds a Master's Degree in Biblical Counseling and is the author of 16 books, including Comforts from the Cross, Idols of the Heart, and Counsel from the Cross. A frequent conference speaker, Elyse can be reached at her website, www.elysefitzpatrick.com.