Suffering: What can we learn from Jesus’ suffering?
Jesus died for our sins, thereby enabling us to experience new life. Jesus lived as our example showing us what it means to live a truly holy human life.
Throughout Jesus’ life he repeatedly stated that the purpose of his life on earth was to glorify God the Father, or to make the Father’s character visible. Jesus’ glorifying God the Father included dying on the cross.1 Practically, this means that there is joy not only in our comfort and success, but also in our suffering and hardship, just as there was for Jesus.2
At the cross of Jesus, we learn that to be like Jesus means that we pick up our cross and follow him as he commanded.3 Practically, this means that we glorify God by allowing hardship, pain, and loss to make us more and more like Jesus and give us a more credible witness for Jesus. As Christians we should neither run to suffering as the early Christian ascetics did, nor run from it as some modern Christians do. Instead, we receive suffering when it comes as an opportunity for God to do something good in us and through us. We rejoice not in the pain but rather in what it can accomplish for the gospel so that something as costly as suffering is not wasted but used for God’s glory, our joy, and others’ good.
In order to suffer well—that is, in a way that is purposeful for the progress of the gospel both in and through us—we must continually remember Jesus’ cross. Peter says:
What credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.4
What hardship in your life is God using to help you learn more about Jesus?