Paraklesis. Embrace your suffering

Dear friends; To the horror of our Western world, suffering is a part of life, despite the best contributions of wealth, science, and medicine. And rather than being shielded from all suffering by God’s protection, believers in Christ are often called to endure greater suffering, for God’s glory, for Christ’s sake, for the benefit of others, and for our own sanctification. And people in gospel ministry and leadership are often called to even greater suffering, for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of the church. Of course there are many consolations, and sometimes God relieves our sufferings, in his kindness. But sometimes he allows us to suffer, in his kindness.

Peter Adam – May 2021 | stjudes.org.au/peteradam

I love the story of the woman in Queensland who took part in a marathon run, planning to exit at the half-way mark. She took the wrong turn, ran the whole marathon and won! But we often run the happiness marathon, rather than the holiness marathon, because we are frightened of suffering. Lots of our prayers are about relief from suffering. But suffering is a daily reality. No one gets through life unscarred.

Here are three clues to facing suffering.

  1. Don’t run away from it, on the contrary, embrace it. 

The more you run away from it, the more fearsome suffering becomes. Face it and embrace it willingly.

  1. You won’t feel very brave when you are anticipating it, but trust that God will provide sufficient strength when you need it. 

I confess that I don’t feel at all confident that I would continue to stand for Christ when someone was about to remove my fingernails to make me renounce him! But I trust that his grace will be sufficient at the time!

  1. Don’t wait until suffering comes before you start preparing yourself and praying. 

Plan ahead, prepare ahead, and pray ahead!

Here are some mediations and prayers you can pray ahead of time, as well as praying when a particular situation arises. Notice that they cover a variety of contexts in which suffering may arise. Plan and prepare by praying now!

Please do the meditation on the Bible verses before you pray the prayer.

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father.

Please help me to embrace suffering as your will. 

Meditate on:

Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?’ Job 2:10; ‘You intended to harm me, but God turned it for good.’ Gen 50:20; ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him.’ Rom 8:28; ‘Not my will but yours be done.’ Matt 26:39.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering as your will. 

Please help me to embrace suffering for your glory.

Meditate on:

I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake I do this… I will not yield my glory to another.’ Is 48:10; ‘On the day the Lord comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.’ 2 Thess 1:10; ‘a great multitude … wearing white robes … they cried with a loud voice “Salvation belongs to our God … and to the Lamb” …These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.’ Rev 7:9,10, 14.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you embrace suffering for your glory. 

Please help me to embrace suffering that comes from living in a fallen creation.

Meditate on:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us … For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed … the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.’ Rom 8:18-21.

Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Rev 21:3,4; ‘He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.’ Rev 22:20.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering that comes from living in a fallen creation.

Please help me to embrace suffering for the sake of Christ.

Meditate on:

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.’ Acts 5:41; ‘For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.’ Phil 1:29; ‘Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’ 2 Tim 4:12; ‘If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you … if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.’ 1 Pet 4:14,16; ‘They triumphed over [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’ Rev 12:11.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering for the sake of Christ.

Please help me to embrace suffering for the truth of the gospel.

Meditate on:

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.’ Mark 8:38; ‘Striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.’ Phil 1:27; ‘So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.’ 2 Tim 1:9; ‘Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.’ Jude 3.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering for the truth of the gospel.

Please help me to embrace suffering for doing good.

Meditate on:

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering … if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.’ 1 Peter 2:19,20; ‘Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed … For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.’ 1 Peter 3:13,14,17.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering for doing good.

Please help me to embrace suffering for the benefit of others.

Meditate on:

I fill up what is still lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, the church.’ Col 1:24; ‘I endure everything for the sake of the elect.’ 2 Tim 2:10; ‘We always carry about in our body the death of Jesus … life is at work in you.’ 2 Cor 4:10,12.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering for the benefit of others. 

Please help me to embrace suffering in serving others.

Meditate on:

Whoever want to become great among you must be slave of all … the Son of Man came … to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.’ Mark 10:45; ‘I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.’ John 13:14.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering in serving others.

Please help me to embrace suffering for my own sanctification.

Meditate on: 

We rejoice in our sufferings … suffering produce perseverance; perseverance Character: and character hope.’ Rom 5:3; ‘God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.’ Heb 12:10; ‘Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance … that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ James 1:2,3.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering for my own sanctification. 

Please help me to embrace suffering in order to forgive as I have been forgiven.

Meditate on:

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.’ Luke 11:4; ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil.’ Rom 12:17; ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’ Ephes 4:32.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering in order to forgive as I have been forgiven. 

Please help me to embrace suffering with the comfort of the promise of future glory.

Meditate on: 

Our light momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory.’ 2 Cor 4:17; ‘If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will reign with him.’ 2 Tim 2:11; ‘You may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith … may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.’ 1 Pet 1:6,7; ‘the one who is victorious will be dressed in white.’ Rev 3:5.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering with the comfort of the promise of future glory.

Please help me to embrace suffering to follow the Lord Jesus.

Meditate on:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ Luke 9:23; ‘Christ left you an example, that you should follow in his steps … he did not retaliate … he made no threats … he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.’ 1 Pet 2:21-23; ‘Rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’ 1 Pet 4:13.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering to follow the Lord Jesus.

Please help me to embrace suffering and experience Christ’s sympathy, understanding, and strength.

Meditate on:

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted … Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered … Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ Heb 2:18, 5:8, 4:16.

Pray:

Gracious God and loving heavenly Father. Please help me to trust you and embrace suffering knowing Christ’s sympathy, understanding, and strength.

I love the story of the evangelist George Whitefield, a working-class man, recently converted, who went to be a student at Pembroke College, Oxford. Because he was poor, he was a ‘servitor’, acting as personal servant to wealthy and high-class fellow-students. Here is his account of his first year:

But when religion began to take root in my heart, and I was fully convinced my soul must totally be renewed…I was visited with outward and inward trials … I incurred the displeasure of the Master of the College … who threatened to expel me, if I ever visited the poor again … I said, if it displeased him, I would not … I immediately repented, and visited the poor at the first opportunity … My relations … counted my life madness s… I daily underwent some contempt at college. Some have thrown dirt at me … two friends forsook me.

He then evaluated the benefits: ‘These, though little, were useful trials. They inured me to contempt, lessened self-love and taught me to die daily’.1What a positive response to suffering!

I must confess that I have not arrived at being able to ‘count it all joy when you meet various kinds of trials’! [James 1:2]. But I have managed to experience Hebrews 12:11,

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. 

And my testimony is that while I have found suffering a great challenge at the time, as I look back over my life I can see that it has all been of benefit to me; of blessing to others; and, I trust, brought glory to God.

Furthermore

I recommend this article by Rory Shiner: https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/article/out-thought-or-out-discipled-mission-and-ministry-in-2020s-australia/

With warmest good wishes for your life and ministry.

Yours,

Peter Adam


Endnotes

1 These quotations are reduced and modified from George Whitefield, Whitefield Journals, London, Banner of Truth, 1960, pp. 50,51.