I am teaching Women’s Bible study again this week, so my head is enmeshed in all “things” Colossians. That is the beauty and the “irritation” of teaching- my mind is pondering a-mile-a-minute-day-and-NIGHT. All the time, considering what the passage’s point is and then what is the best way to make it come alive for those studying with me.
My section of verses for this week begins with these remarkable words from Paul. I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. (Col 1:24).
I have never had a bucket list per se, but suffering might not make the top 5,000 items if I did. What about you? Where would suffering be on your list? And if it did make your list, would being “glad” about it be your choice of words to express your emotional state?
In my preparation for teaching this Scripture from Colossians, I ran into the incredibly inspiring story of Dr. Helen Roseveare. One of her quotes gave me a great deal of pause. She said, “God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply. The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay. The privilege is greater than the price.”
Take a minute and re-read those words- let them soak in and resonate loudly in your being. What Paul is saying in Col 1:24 is that I gladly suffer since I know that my suffering makes me more and more like Jesus and makes me more and more useful for the church. Dr. Roseveare suffered, making her more and more like Jesus and more useful for the church, too. Even now, as she is in the presence of Jesus, her many books, born out of much pain, encourage the reader to stay the course and not give up. What an amazing legacy she left!
So, what do I do with this idea of suffering for the Lord being “good”?
We must realize that when we suffer for the Lord, it is for the good of others. Our steadfastness and stability during those times strengthen the church. Paul understood this very well. It wasn’t too many years after he wrote those words that tradition tells us he was beheaded. Paul lost his physical life, but his life-giving words of truth continue to guide the church. His stalwart faith and putting pen to paper have produced innumerable eternal rewards.
Isn’t this why we read stories of godly men and women of the Bible and are strengthened by their faith during our rough times? Isn’t this why Job’s story resonates with us at times? When he says, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.” (Job 19:35). Or why the book of Lamentations can soothe us when everything seems to be crashing in? Or why the well-known words, “yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” come to mind when life gets hard? Like with Paul, our stability is a light to those watching our lives during those times. Our anchor is Jesus, and he, indeed, will hold us.
Many years ago now, I got a phone call from a friend. She said, “Anne, I have been watching your life, and I want what you have.” I was flabbergasted as I had no idea I was being “watched.” We, too, like Paul and Dr. Roseveare are witnesses of the Good News. How we walk during trying times speaks volumes to those in our path.
There is nothing easy about this idea of suffering gladly, but as Dr. Roseveare so beautifully said, “God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply. The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay. The privilege is greater than the price.”