Recently I posted Suffering & Comfort – thoughts on some of what God has been teaching me about suffering related to interactions with others. As I continued to move through the first few verses of 2 Corinthians, He began to show me some things about my attitude toward suffering as well.
As I read and studied 2 Corinthians 1:5-7, the first thought that came to me was this: In what ways do I truly suffer? I have this attitude that if things aren’t going my way – not going well for me – then I am suffering. Nowhere in Scripture am I told that things will always go my way here on earth. In fact, I seem to remember Jesus saying the opposite would be true. (John 16:33, among others.) But, is it really genuine suffering when life just isn’t nice and easy?
Paul’s attitude seemed to be that if his suffering wasn’t for Christ, then it wasn’t true suffering. Do I have that same attitude? I think not. If I did have that attitude, I wouldn’t claim to suffer much at all. Much of what I call suffering is either self-inflicted or, in the grand scheme of things, much less significant than I make it out to be. My attitude needs to be so much more like Paul’s – it needs to reflect that the only true suffering I experience is suffering in the Name of Christ. All else is just inconvenience.
Which leads to the second thought. What is my attitude during my suffering? Backing up to 2 Cor 1:3, Paul is showing an attitude of praise because his suffering is worth something. I’m not that gracious. I’m rather whiny and irritable. I’m also rather caught up in my circumstances. I rarely think of the eternal ramifications of what I’m going through. I just think about how it affects the here and now.
One morning recently I awoke before it was time to get up. Lying there enjoying the comfort of my bed for a few more minutes, I started praying over the day. As I was praying, I began to teeter back and forth between sleep and consciousness. In one brief moment between being asleep and awake, an image burned into my mind. It was an image of eternity. Not necessarily a picture image – more of a concept; an awareness. In that split-second, I had perspective. I’m not sure it could even be called a full moment because it was here and gone so quickly. But, the impact of that flashing awareness was incredibly strong. Everything I had been striving with, every difficulty we had been facing, every worry that had been on my mind was suddenly compared to eternity. In that instant, I saw it all for what it was – very, very momentary.
The awareness that I glimpsed for a very brief instant was the awareness that Paul knew continually. What flashed through my mind was Paul’s state of mind. I cannot even begin to put into words the feelings that accompanied that flash. They were surreal. Confidence. Peace. Love. Assurance. Joy to the uttermost. The reality is that I can live with those certainties, just as Paul did. That is the Biblical attitude of suffering, and that is the attitude I am striving to develop.