Vol I No. 7
All Saints

Suffering the Word...

by William J. Martin

Giotto_CruxifixionIt is more than slightly disturbing to see how seemingly sensible Christians fall apart completely when visited with one sort or another of earthly unhappiness, calamity, or suffering. The only conclusion that can be drawn from such a violent shift and sudden change in temperament is that such a man was only a seemingly sensible Christian. In all truth, such a man is not truly a sensible Christian. And this because suffering is not an habit of his customary life.

Suffering is, of course, a necessary component in that spiritual mixture that informs and defines true Christian life. The true Christian suffers always in a variety of ways. First and foremost the Christian is a man who suffers as he dies to his own sin and comes alive to righteousness. He suffers first as he bewails, grieves, and laments his own failure to open his heart and soul to the Grace of the Lord. He suffers then as God’s Word begins to be formed and conceived in him. As the Word is being formed in him, he suffers to fight manfully under the banner of Christ against the world, the flesh, and the devil. And as the conceived Word of God is born in his soul and begins to mature, he suffers to remain faithful, obedient, and true to the same Word. While the Word is maturing in him, he must suffer himself to resist, thwart, and conquer any sense of hubris or pride that would give credit to himself for the success of his sanctification. Rather he must suffer the unmerited, unearned, and undeserved mercy, compassion, pity, forgiveness, and love of God in Jesus Christ alone to move and define the whole of his life. So he suffers to lose all that he is and has, that Christ might be formed in him.

Simultaneously, he suffers for others. He suffers himself to take on the spiritual destiny of others in prayer. He suffers in heart and soul for those whom his sins have hurt or turned away from his Lord. He suffers in heart and soul for those who hate him and those who love him. He suffers in heart and soul for those who do not know that Lord whom he tries to obey, to love, and to serve. He suffers for those who seem to be Christians, but are not yet truly so, because they have not yet learned to suffer. But he suffers in faith that one day they will see and know that it is Christ alone who is suffering, dying, and rising in him. He suffers in hope that they will invite the same Christ to enter their lives. He suffers in love that they will then be enabled to bear the burden of his suffering, when he is most in danger of being only a seemingly sensible Christian.