Is joyful suffering even possible? After 25 years, Jesus took my love and my best friend home with him. Now, mowing the lawn is back on my chore list. I was doing the first seasonal mow. Naturally, I thought about Kevin. At that moment, painful memories became a deluge through the corridors of my soul. Sorrow gripped my heart. I questioned God’s fairness. The afternoon sun dipped beyond the trees. Then, over the noise of the mower and my selfish thoughts, I heard his still small voice say, “Suffering is an expression of my love.” Immediately after that breathless moment when my heart wrung tight with sorrow, my hurt and His love collided.
First Peter 4 says: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking… so as to live…no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” Jesus expressed his love by giving the ultimate sacrifice of suffering in response to the will of God. He cried out to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane imploring that if it was possible, to let this cup pass from him. He finished his supplication with resolve, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Peter tells us to have the same thinking as Jesus. Paul said it, too. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who…humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5). Jesus came to earth as a man, humbled himself, and became obedient. He submitted himself to the will of the Father, even to the point of drinking the bitter cup of death. Jesus endured for the love of his Father and for the love of those who belong to the Father. Even more intriguing is that the love of the Father willed this suffering on his own Son.
The question now is not one of fairness, but of asking for the same mind of Christ. Our response to suffering should express God’s love. When Lazarus died, Jesus wept while looking down on Jerusalem where He would be deceived into the hands of his killers. He declared to Lazarus’ mourning sister, Martha, as she questioned the fairness of God, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” Then he asked, “Do you believe that?” She did. We know what happened next. Lazarus was raised from the dead!
Do we believe God is faithful to carry us by his love through the darkness while we question “Why?” The mind of Christ says there is life and joy coming that bring with them the light of His glory. The mind of Christ endures in sacrificial obedience to the will of God, knowing His purpose will be fulfilled. The mind of Christ joyfully walks in the knowledge that the love of God is expressed in our suffering!
Remember what Jesus said to his disciples just before his crucifixion when all their hope would be diminished: “ ...You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy…So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:20-22).
The mind of Christ has confidence that when our hurt and His love collides, joy is the ultimate end to stories of participating and persevering in His suffering expression of love!