Suffering Well


It may be strange to have a post about suffering on a Sweet Saturday, but if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ this special message will be sweet to you in its truest sense.

I follow the Desiring God blog, and last week this particular post by Jonathan Parnell greatly spoke to me. This is the Philippians 3:7-8 passage to which Mr. Parnell refers:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ… —Philippians 3:7-8

Beloved, I pray you are edified by Mr. Parnell’s words too.

How Christians Prepare for Suffering

By Jonathan Parnell | Mar 07, 2013 12:00 am


The apostle Paul suffered. Did he ever.

He was imprisoned. He was beaten, often near death. He took 195 total lashes from his Jewish kinsmen on five occasions. He took three pummels with rods. He was once stoned — and then also shipwrecked three times. Then there are the endless dangers of travel in the first century, plus countless other experiences mentioned and unmentioned in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:21–33).

It doesn’t take long until we wonder how in the world he did it. How did he take so much pain? So much loss? How did he prepare for suffering?

The answer is in Philippians 3:7–8.

Counting Everything As Loss

In the 1992 sermon “Called to Suffer and Rejoice: That We Might Gain Christ,” John Piper unfolds the significance of Paul counting his gain as loss. Basically, the apostle took a long look at his life apart from Christ. All the things that he valued — his Jewish pedigree, his place in the upper echelon of religious society, his law-keeping — he took a long look at this list and wrote “LOSS” over it with a giant Sharpie.

And then we went a step further.

It wasn’t just the past values of his personal life. It wasn’t just “whatever gain he had.” Paul looks out into the future and declares everything as loss. Everything out there that could pass as positive. Everything good that he has yet to experience and everything which he will never experience. Compared to Jesus, everything is loss.

This Is Normal Christianity

And lest we think this puts Paul on a pious pedestal, that he is at a spiritual level we’d never reach, Piper reminds us that this sort of reckoning is normal Christianity (Matthew 13:44; Luke 14:33). To consider Jesus better than everything else in the world is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

It may be worth reading that last sentence a couple more times, until it feels uncomfortable. Many of us are so quick to console our hearts when the least bit of unsettling winds blow through. But what about conviction? It’s a good thing not to be comfortable with a watered-down Christianity foreign to the Bible. It’s not works-righteousness to say that saving faith in Jesus means we have to really love him. It’s works-righteousness to think that our really loving him is the reason we’re saved. Paul said that everything is loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus. Paul said that and so should we.

Jesus Is Better

And that’s how Paul prepared for suffering. He saw Jesus as superior to everything else. Piper lays it out this way:

Suffering is nothing more than the taking away of bad things or good things that the world offers for our enjoyment — reputation, esteem among peers, job, money, spouse, sexual life, children, friends, health, strength, sight, hearing, success, etc. When these things are taken away (by force or by circumstance or by choice), we suffer. But if we have followed Paul and the teaching of Jesus and have already counted them as loss for the surpassing value of gaining Christ, then we are prepared to suffer.

This means that if we treasure Jesus, then every aspect of suffering in our lives is losing something we have already declared as loss.

If when you become a Christian you write a big red “LOSS” across all the things in the world except Christ, then when Christ calls you to forfeit some of those things, it is not strange or unexpected. The pain and the sorrow may be great. The tears may be many, as they were for Jesus in Gethsemane. But we will be prepared. We will know that the value of Christ surpasses all the things the world can offer and that in losing them we gain more of Christ.

Loving Him Today

None of us knows the sorrows that may meet us tomorrow and are sure to meet us if Jesus tarries. We don’t know what hardships God will call us to walk through. But even though we don’t know them, we can prepare for them. And the way we prepare for afflictions then is by gaining Jesus now.

It will not minimize the pain. Not at all. But we will know, even in the darkest night, that Jesus is our God and all, that he is our Rock and treasure, that he is enough.

The way we suit up for our sufferings tomorrow is by cultivating our love for Jesus today.

Thankful for Special Women

Have you ever had a mentor, someone special who has come alongside you and guided you in your Christian walk? I have been blessed with two such women in my life and I thank God for them every day.

Donna Baker came into my life way back in 1995 and although we have lived hundreds of miles apart at times, every time we get together it’s as if we just saw each other the day before.

Patricia Knight is my far-away friend whom I met online in 2003. Although Pat and I have never met in person, we share such a strong love for the Lord that our bond of friendship has strengthened immeasurably over the years.

Donna and Pat may not live nearby but they constantly live in my heart. Each of these special women has blessed me not only with the gift of friendship but also with their fully alive love for their Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

This is how I picture the three of us celebrating when we are together in heaven one day. And what a wonderfully blessed time that will be!

Both Donna and Pat have experienced their share of heartache, misery and pain. Haven’t we all? But Donna and Pat have both shown me how to live joyful lives—in spite of their circumstances—because of their utter dependence on God and their belief that He always knows best. They daily show their love for and trust in God, and completely rely on Him to lead as they travel both the mountains and valleys in their lives.

Not surprisingly, Donna and Pat both love immersing themselves in the Word. Donna is the one whose example I followed all those years ago when my faith was greatly tested in the wake of two years of devastating events in my life. She was the one I turned to as I rededicated my life to the Lord and then was baptized. I had never done a Bible study before, but I followed Donna’s example and threw myself wholeheartedly into Bible reading and study. I have always been thankful for her patient guidance and sound Biblical knowledge.

Pat and I met online when we both wrote devotionals for the same ministry. I wrote to her one day to let her know how much one of her devotionals had touched me. That email led to tons of others, and even though we have never met in person, next year we will celebrate 10 years of our long-distance relationship. We have spoken by phone a few times but our daily lives don’t mesh well enough to make it possible very often. We live on opposite sides of the country so there is that 2-3 hour time difference. We also each endure chronic pain illnesses so our awake times are very different. Even though Pat lives with extreme pain most of the time, her constant encouragement and thoroughly trusting dependence on the Lord have shown me how to live joyfully no matter how I feel.

A couple of weeks ago Donna shared one of her Bible study assignments with me and I immediately knew I had to share it with all of you. So starting next week, for the next six Thankful Thursdays, I will be posting on her John 13 teaching.

Pat is the author of two devotional books, Pure Joy and REJOICE! She has graciously agreed to allow me to share some devotionals from both of these books with you, so I’ll be posting several of those treasures on Treasure Tuesdays here over the next few months.

Thank you, Donna and Pat, for allowing me to share your heart here. I don’t think either of you knows how special you are to me!

Beloved, I know you’ll be blessed by what these faithful women have written as much as I have been, so let me ask you again:

Have you ever had a mentor or someone special who has come alongside you and guided you in your Christian walk?