“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions…” (Colossians 1:24, NIV 1984).
Randy has a grandson with a horrible malignancy and low chance of cure. He was describing the ordeal and chemotherapy and how difficult is for the family.
I told him how sorry I was for their suffering and another in the room offered, “We all have our cross to bear.”
I have a Syrian friend who once sat in on a prayer session with Christian healthcare professionals and heard all of our requests for people who were suffering from illness or loss of job or relationship problems. After the prayer session, he drew me aside and said, “What you in America call suffering, we in Syria call life.”
It certainly helps us bear our pain if we see ourselves walking beside the Master, carrying the cross He has asked us to carry. In doing so, we “fill up in our flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.” It gives us courage to work with our Lord in His redemption of the world. But, pain comes from many directions and not all of it can be claimed as a cross to bear. As my Syrian friend wisely said, much of our pain is just normal life in a broken world. It certainly hurts badly but all hurting is not necessarily a cross to bear. Suffering in this world is only our cross to bear if we carry it seeking a goal that Jesus sought as He walked to Golgotha with His.
Suffering is surely our cross if it comes to us directly or indirectly from our obedience to God as He calls us into His purpose. A doctor who loses His hospital privileges because he openly witnesses to a patient is clearly carrying His cross as He looks for another job. So is the missionary whose child dies in Africa.
A grandson who has cancer, as horrible as this is, is not necessarily a cross to be carried. But it can be. If Randy now takes his suffering and uses it for God’s glory, with the way he handles his pain and the witness that comes from his pain, this too becomes his cross to carry as he walks the suffering with his Lord. Living within suffering, intentionally using our suffering to honor Christ, does indeed, help “fill up in our flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.”
And the truth is, that’s exactly what Randy is doing.
Thank you for the privilege of suffering with you when the pain of this world becomes an instrument for your glory.