The Purpose of Suffering is to Join in Christ’s Suffering to Reflect the Nature of It
I get that from Colossians 1:24. Before I get to that scripture, I want to define the nature of Christ’s suffering. For that, I’ll go to Philippians 2:8-11
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Christ’s humility, suffering and death on the cross had a purpose and that purpose, ultimately, was to glorify God the Father. Christ died, was raised and is to be exalted as Lord to the glory of God the Father. So the nature of Christ’s suffering is that it gives glory to God. We know that’s true for Christ in a unique way. Now what significance does our suffering have?
Colossians 1:24 tells us where we come in. Paul says:
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church
Paul cannot mean that anything is lacking in the atoning work of the cross for we know Christ’s sacrifice was for all sin for all time (Heb. 10:10-14). What is lacking is the presentation of Christ’s afflictions. What is lacking is the display of the nature of Christ’s suffering. Yes, Christ suffered once and for all, and yes we read about it in the gospels but so many people don’t feel the weight of it. Therefore we join in his suffering to reflect the glorious work of Christ. He humbled himself, he was obedient, he suffered and he was raised. We too shall humble ourselves, we shall be obedient, we shall suffer and we will be raised as Christ was raised… all to the glory of God the father. If we fail in these things, our presentation of the gospel is weakened. We must never exalt ourselves, we must never disobey, we must not despair in our suffering. After all, how will people know the suffering Christ if our response to suffering is so different from our Lord? Christ laid down his life for us and people can know that better if we lay down our lives for others, for the church, for the glory of God.
My prayer is that my father does not despair in his suffering. He must rejoice as Paul would rejoice for my dad could be filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
See also: Part 1