When we think about the amazing, loving, and merciful gifts that God has graciously given to us as believers, we often think about our salvation, eternity with him, his love, and so on. But there is another place in scripture that this word and idea of gracious giving is used and it may surprise you.
Philippians 1:29 says “For to you it has been granted (χαρίζομαι) on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…” The Greek here indicates that on behalf of Christ, God graciously gives us our faith and belief in Jesus but he also gives us the blessing and privilege of suffering. Have you ever looked at your suffering that way? Have you ever considered that the trials and persecution, the sufferings that you and I go through, are a gracious gift from God? Not an easy thing to wrap our minds around or accept perhaps.
The truth is we need to trust God and his unfathomable ways. We need to believe and trust that he cares for us and loves us all the time. A few short verses later in Philippians 2:13 Paul writes “… for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God is at work in us, and working through us for His glory. Just consider Christ’s suffering on the cross and how in complete obedience and humility he trusted his heavenly father completely.
As we humbly submit, in obedience, to the Lord as our savior and king, we too demonstrate a trust in God and we come to a deeper understanding of the truth about the gracious gift of suffering. We will come to expect a life that is marked by joy and suffering, thanksgiving and pain, delight and distress . I have known very good friends that have demonstrated perhaps the most brilliant light of testimony in and through the midst of some of the most extreme suffering imaginable. How can that be possible? Simple…they have come to understand the accept the truth of the gracious gift of suffering for Christ’s sake.
Be of good courage. Pray to God in the midst of the suffering in your life. Without a doubt our suffering can be incredibly hard and intensely painful at times. May we be like Christ, obedient to God understanding that God will never leave us or forsake us…that he has plans to prosper us…that he has us in the palm of his hand…and that his grace is sufficient…both his grace in his gift of the suffering, and his grace in his never ending love and mercy as the power of Christ is poured out on us during those times of suffering.
I want to close with this verse from Paul. It is a verse that has encouraged me immensely when I have felt those private burdens of suffering that sometimes fill my life…
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10