I’ve had a few people contemplate whether or not they suffer considering the Scripture while reading Dancing In The Dungeon. When they compare their experience to Scripture, theirs doesn’t seem as significant. But who compares to Paul as found in 2 Cor 11:23-28?
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers… robbers… from my own people… from Gentiles, danger in the city… the wilderness… at sea… from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
Comparatively, I have not suffered… few have. But all these things were God’s will for Paul! Thus something to remember, the life experience… in total… IS God’s will for the believer (Phil 1:6, 2:13; Eph 1:11; Ro 8:28-29). Read those in the context of suffering and hardship. Now I suggest that the average Christian’s experience of suffering should be understood in contexts. Consider… Our suffering may not rise to the level of Paul’s, but it is ours nonetheless and as such is not to be ignored. There is the benefit of holiness and sanctification in all suffering. With this said, don’t be surprised by and contemplate different kinds of suffering:
Natural Suffering. This is the result of living in a fallen world. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and bridge collapses happen to the saved and lost. Tragedies are going to happen… to everyone. This situation was addressed by Jesus.
Just Suffering. This kind is the direct result of being salt and light for Christ in a fallen world. When this happens, rejoice and be glad! Unjust Suffering. This refers to having hardship as a result of interacting with evil fallen people. These people are so harsh they leave a wake of brokenness and destruction in their life without any care about ethics or morals. They aren’t harsh toward Christians only, but to everyone.
Spiritual Suffering. This is the most enigmatic of all… and there may be an element of it in all suffering, we just don’t know. On the spiritual level, Job’s suffering was the result of God putting Job before Satan to test him (See also Luke 22:31-32). This is also affirmed in Eph 6:12.
Purposeful Suffering. Not all suffering/testing is to be understood as a Satanic attack alone, but God USING SATAN to accomplish His purpose of sanctification, righteousness, and holiness… Exodus 20:20; 1 Pet 4:12; 1 Pet 1:7. Now, that’s all fine and wonderful… for discussion, but here’s the thing:
Regardless of the source or kind, suffering is suffering and it is hard. At the same time in suffering Christians are to… “Conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel” (Phil 1:27).