Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:8–9)
Is the suffering that comes to the Christian because of persecution the same as the suffering that comes from cancer? Do the promises given to one apply to the other? My answer is yes. All of life, if it is lived earnestly by faith in the pursuit of God’s glory and the salvation of others, will meet with some kind of obstacle and suffering. The suffering that comes to the obedient Christian is part of the price of living where you are in obedience to the call of God.
In choosing to follow Christ in the way he directs, we choose all that this path includes under his sovereign providence. Thus, all suffering that comes in the path of obedience is suffering with Christ and for Christ — whether it is cancer at home or persecution far away.
And it is “chosen” — that is, we willingly take the path of obedience where the suffering befalls us, and we do not murmur against God. We may pray — as Paul did — that the suffering be removed (2 Corinthians 12:8); but if God wills, we embrace it as part of the cost of discipleship in the path of obedience on the way to heaven.
All experiences of suffering in the path of Christian obedience, whether from persecution or sickness or accident, have this in common: They all threaten our faith in the goodness of God, and tempt us to leave the path of obedience.
Therefore, every triumph of faith, and all perseverance in obedience, are testimonies to the goodness of God and the preciousness of Christ — whether the enemy is sickness, Satan, sin, or sabotage. Therefore, all suffering, of every kind, that we endure in the path of our Christian calling is a suffering “with Christ” and “for Christ.”
With him in the sense that the suffering comes to us as we are walking with him by faith, and in the sense that it is endured in the strength he supplies through his sympathizing high-priestly ministry to us (Hebrews 4:15).
And for him in the sense that the suffering tests and proves our allegiance to his goodness and power, and in the sense that it reveals his worth as an all-sufficient compensation and prize.