“BE PREPARED TO SUFFER FOR ME, in My Name. All suffering has meaning in My kingdom. Pain and problems are opportunities to demonstrate your trust in Me. Bearing your circumstance bravely–even thanking Me for them–is one of the highest forms of praise. This sacrifice of thanksgiving rings golden-toned bells of Joy throughout heavenly realms. On earth also, your patient suffering sends out ripples of good tidings in ever-widening circles.
When suffering strikes, remember that I am sovereign and that I can bring good out of everything. Do not try to run from pain or hide from problems. Instead, accept adversity in My Name, offering it up to Me for My purposes. Thus, your suffering gains meaning and draws you closer to Me. Joy emerges from the ashes of adversity through your trust and thankfulness.”
~Sarah Young, Jesus Calling October 14
This brief but potent devotional unpacks Paul’s attitude toward suffering in Philippians. As a coping mechanism, Paul leverages the sufferings in his life in such a way that he no longer views suffering as a liability but as an asset. He speaks many times of “joy” and “rejoicing” as he suffers, even unto death: “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (Phil 2:17-18).
Last week, we considered Paul’s bold claim that suffering is a gift. Paul pushes it even further and calls us to rejoice in suffering. ‘Rejoice in the midst of suffering?’ ‘Is that possible???’ is the first question that comes to everybody’s mind. The best way to tackle the question is to frame the definition of joy into two categories: joy is an emotion, like the father who rejoices when the prodigal son returns in Luke 15. The other is a conviction, a blessed assurance anchored in hope. While the two are obviously related, they are not the same. For those of us taciturn and stoic, this is actually very good news. We don’t have to have a forced smile anymore! To rejoice as a conviction is no longer rooted in emotions and circumstances.
In Romans 12:12, Paul puts this joy in the context of hope: “rejoice in hope.” Here is the hope is not a vague category. The hope Paul talks about is eschatological (one of those ’25 dollar-words’ as someone once said). It is anchored in God’s coming and His vindication at the End (eschatos = end). After the self-emptying and the humbling of the Cross, Jesus rose from the dead and is now exalted at the right hand of God the Father (Phil 2:1-11). This is the blueprint for our own lives as we follow Jesus. The sufferings of this age are nothing in comparison with the glory that is to be revealed (read Romans 8!). This is why we rejoice in hope, even as we suffer. Joy is not an emotion anymore, but a conviction anchored in the hope of a future glory.