What an odd gift. The gift of suffering with Christ?! How many would race to open a gift of suffering? Who would want mounted upon their lives an added dose of pain and suffering? Who would volunteer for an added scoop of suffering upon their daily difficulties? Give me blessing, gifting, anointing, power, fellowship…but suffering, who would think?
Who gets the gift of suffering?
Well, we’re in luck. God doesn’t share His suffering with just anyone. Though every believer is called to lose their life and join Him in the forming of His life in others, not everyone answers the call. You must choose to receive this gift. His gift of suffering is to fellowship with Him in His sufferings. He invites many, but it’s only those who embrace their personal crosses who receive the privilege of partaking in His suffering. It’s just not for the casual Christian.
It’s a trust to be endowed with sharing in Christ’s own suffering. This is a divine mystery of union and fellowship with Him. And there’s a special intimacy offered to the one who willingly receives a place to carry Christ’s burdens with Him. It’s a place that few covet and even fewer will receive. It’s a deep burden but the Reward is so sweet.
As I reflected on how to visually represent the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, I first thought about the cross. We have many pictures of Christ’s agony on the cross. But this is not where the Spirit led me. The cross was Christ’s alone to bear. Even the Father turned His back on Him as He bore it. “My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?” But the place that does reflect the fellowship of His suffering is in Gethsemane. It was there that Jesus asked His inner circle of trusted friends to join Him, to bear with Him in His suffering. This is why I chose pictures of Christ’s Gethsemane.
Not many chosen
When Christ went to Gethsemane, He didn’t take the masses, nor those following Him, not even all His disciples. No, Christ took only three to join Him, to fellowship with Him in His suffering. These three were given the gift of suffering. Today too there are many followers and believers, a few disciples and even fewer trusted friends of the Bridegroom who will join Him in His pain.
I believe it’s virtually impossible to partake of Christ’s sufferings while being absorbed with my own. The one given the gift of suffering is the one who no longer is. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). It’s the one who has lost his life and interests for the sake of his Beloved. With this one Jesus shares His gift of suffering.
Think about it – we share our persona with the world and our happiness with friends, but it is only those we trust most that we share the pain of our hearts. Out of desperation we may reveal our struggles, but to actually entrust another to come into our suffering, and more, to join us in our deepest hearts pain…this is only given to one we trust.
In like manner, Christ entrusts only a few with the gift of suffering. He lets a handful into the place of literal fellowship with His suffering. May I be counted as one with whom Christ feels at peace to share His heart and suffering.
Philippians 1:29 NLT
For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.
Philippians 3:10 HCSB
My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…
Romans 8:17 NIV
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.