While the Spirit has been leading me through this subject, I’ve drawn a hard line to make a point. My distinction between pain and suffering is stark. One is the experience of living life and the other is the fruit of our resistance. So how can I make this division when the Word says that Christ Himself suffered but He was never rebellious to God (see 1 Peter 4:1, 1 Peter 2:21)? Also, am I not called to share in the sufferings of Christ (see 1 Peter 4:13, Philippians 3:10, Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 1:5)?
I’m so glad several of you asked me to clarify this in the comments yesterday, because I myself am learning as well. While making the above statements, I too realized that these scriptures were factors that had to be addressed. As I wrote about the difference between pain and suffering, I remembered Christ’s own suffering, as well as His perfection. “So John, where’s the BEEF?”
“The sufferings of Christ were not those of ordinary people. He suffered ‘according to the will of God’ (1 Peter 4:19), having a different point of view of suffering from ours. It is only through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we can understand what God is after in His dealings with us” (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 5).*
Personal suffering and sufferings of Christ
There’s a BIG difference between my personal suffering and the sufferings of Christ. Sure the word suffering is used in both but the difference is vast. Personal suffering is prolonged agony and torment from my resistance to God’s will—physical, spiritual and emotional torment. This is NOT at all what Christ suffered. Christ was never in torment from rebellion or sin, though He did suffer as He wrestled with His own resistance to God’s will of crucifixion. He never rebelled or sinned in His struggle but sweated blood in the fight to surrender.
Painful torment experienced as a result of my resisting God’s will is an unbearable suffering. It’s intended to be unendurable so I will bow and turn back to God. We all have experienced this suffering because “all we like sheep have gone astray.” All of us have sinned and fallen short of His glorious Will. Personal human suffering is punitive and the result of leaving God. Suffering torment is the fruit of resisting our Father.
Sufferings of Christ
Divine suffering is the pain experienced in accordance to the will of God. This suffering is not punitive but redemptive. It’s the pain experienced by the “grain of wheat” that must die in order to bring life (John 12:24). Divine pain has God’s grace to receive and endure. It doesn’t mean that it will not be painful, but there is grace.
The major difference between suffering and the sufferings of Christ is one thing—LIFE. One is separation and death while the other is union and Life. Christ’s Life brings forth life even in death. My willful resistance always brings death, and I can choose this at anytime.
Here is the line in the sand: THE END to my suffering was in Christ’s own suffering on the cross. Christ took my resistant sufferings, full of torment and agony, to the cross to be forever obliterated. The cross was where my personal human suffering died. The cross is my liberation from all my resistance to Christ and the Will of the Father. The cross is the end of my story and the beginning of His in me.