Colossians 1:24 “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”
Is there anything going on in your life right now that you wish was otherwise? I just heard an excellent definition of “suffering” from that great missionary to the Auca Indians, Elisabeth Elliot. As you may know, her husband was speared to death by the Aucas as he was trying to take the gospel to them. Later, Elisabeth went back to these same people, and led many of them to Christ. As she defines it, “suffering” is either having what you don’t want, or wanting what you don’t have. Interestingly, Paul talks in Colossians as if he had a quota of suffering – and he was in the process of filling up in his body what was still lacking of Christ’s afflictions. God is in total control of everything in our lives, including our suffering. And the suffering in our lives has two primary purposes: to drive us – or others around us – to Christ, or to conform us – or others around us – to the image of Christ. Both of these things are obviously very good for us.
Another analogy from Elizabeth Elliot on this topic is that the Lord is continually working in our lives, which to begin with are like big blocks of granite, blocks of granite which look like anything but Christ. But then God, with His hammer and chisel, bit by bit, knocks away everything that doesn’t look like Christ. And it hurts. Yet, we are to “endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father. . . No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11).
May the promises of God’s Word encourage us as we endure those things we might wish were otherwise in our lives, for God truly means all those very things for our good.
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