There was suffering between the now and then. Between the present and the future. A sun-scorched wasteland, it’s beauty forgotten. An immense darkness rushing in from above. No end in sight. And every step was filled with pain; every heartbeat pulsed against the exhaustion; every breath was labored and dry. Water: seemingly non-existent. Hope: barely there. Life: slowly draining away.
But then, in the midst of the suffering, there was light. Somehow, the journey ended. And from the night there emerged a deafening cry of joy, as feet slapped the ground in earnest. Before them laid an endless green, and a brilliant rainbow shone down from the suddenly clear, blue sky. They rushed to the angelic sight as all their dread and despair was stripped away. And they realized that all the suffering in the world never compared to what awaited them.
If you haven’t made this discovery yet, I’ll let you in on a secret: Life is painful.
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all had our fair share of difficulties. Whether you have been betrayed, lied to, abandoned, cheated on, or even physically hurt, there have been rough patches in everyone’s lives. And for a Christian, persecution is the brutal reality. But here’s the catch: if you are a Child of God, your suffering is only temporary. If you suffer because of righteousness, then you are blessed.
You see, in Matthew 5:10 it reads, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (NIV)
I’m not going to lie. For a long time, that didn’t make sense to me. As someone who’s been on a rollercoaster of suffering and persecution, I didn’t want to believe that something good could come out of any of it. I didn’t want to believe that my pain was for someone’s glory. Why would I rejoice in it? How could I be blessed through it? But here’s the thing about growing up: you learn, and you mature, and things that once didn’t make sense slowly piece together. So here’s what I’ve learned.
The Cost: Living for Christ Requires Sacrifice
Romans 8: 16-18 says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (NIV)
Being identified as a Child of God comes with a price. If we are to live for Christ, then the cost is that we share in his suffering. But that’s not all. We may also share in his glory! In case you missed it, as Children of God, we are his heirs. Jesus has redeemed us, he has chosen us, and no price compares to the price he paid for our sins. No cost compares to “the glory that will be revealed in us”.
So yes, there must be sacrifice. There will be suffering and persecution, I can guarantee that…but what awaits us is the kingdom of heaven, and that is greater than any earthly pain that we are inflicted with.
The Cause: Righteousness = Persecution.
In John 15: 18-21 it says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belong to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” (NIV)
As Christians, we no longer belong to that which our persecution comes from: the world. God has chosen us out of it, and this is why we are hated. But who are we to think that only we have suffered? Christ, before us, was hated and persecuted just as we are now. The world did not know him, nor the One who had sent him. And now, as children of God, we are often subject to the persecution of those now that do not know him. But we need to rest in the fact that we are his, because this assures that no matter the hardship, our reward in heaven, as Children of God, is much greater.
The Conclusion: Our Suffering is NOT Pointless
In 2 Corinthians 4: 7-11 it says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (NIV)
God has entrusted us with the valuable message of salvation, yet our focus is often on ourselves rather than God’s power dwelling in us. We are so focused on our brokenness, that we forget Who we serve. Yes, our weak, perishable bodies will be subject to much sin and suffering, but God will never abandon us. He has won the victory over death. When persecution threatens to rob us, we must remember who’s arms we dwell in and what awaits us in heaven.
The first thing I shared with you was a short story of mine. It’s a simple tale of a journey through a wretched place; a place of much hardship. And the ending is my favorite part, because as the journey finally draws near, they realize that even after all that suffering, nothing compared to what awaited them. And the same goes for us.
We are God’s Children and this is the reason behind why we are persecuted. But no amount of suffering compares to what Christ suffered for us, nor what our inheritance is in heaven.