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. (Colossians 1:24)
Suffering. The word itself makes us cringe. While the word Paul chose could include physical suffering, it actually focused on the mental and emotional turmoil that accompanies hardships and trials.
Suffering is common to every life; what’s uncommon is Paul’s response to it. Namely, he rejoiced. That seems odd to us at first glimpse, because it’s far from our initial reaction. And certainly, Paul is not saying that he was filled with joy BY suffering, but that he could rejoice DURING suffering because he knew what his suffering was going to produce.
James and Peter tell us we can rejoice in our suffering because suffering tests the genuineness of our faith (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). As we endure the challenges of life, we show our faith in Christ to be real, and that is cause for celebration.
Paul’s reason for rejoicing is related, but slightly different. Here he tied his suffering to his ministry within the church. Paul understood that as he suffered in a way similar to the way Christ suffered, he was becoming more like Jesus, and therefore better equipped for the role Christ had given him. For Paul, that job was to make the word of God fully known throughout the entire world (Col 1:25). For you and I, that role may be different.
However, what’s the same is the fact that in this life we will suffer, and that suffering can mold us into the image of Christ – which better prepares us to serve Him in some capacity. More closely resembling Jesus, and better equipped to serve Him – those are real reasons we can rejoice in our sufferings.
In what ways has your suffering made you more like Christ? In what ways has affliction better equipped you to serve Him? –Dave
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