For the Christian, the greatest moments of pain bring the resurrection of Jesus into sharp relief. In suffering, his resurrection and our own become more impressive, more important and more precious than the momentary circumstances. The glory that is to be revealed in our bodies does not compare to the pain felt in our bodies (Romans 8:18). We will live on the Earth with resurrection bodies; that is more powerful a reality than even the largest cup of suffering. In fact, we count it all joy when we face trials of various kinds (James 1:2-3).
How can this be?
Almost by definition, suffering leaves the sufferer with no reasonable, ethical or logical way to end the suffering. Suffering means that the options and choices are removed. Suffering means that your back is against the wall with no recourse. In this way, suffering awakens us to our weakness. And it awakens us to our circumstances and needs. In these deepest moments of profound hurt, it should cause us to ponder the glory of Christ.
When you are at the lowest moment of suffering, and your thoughts are on the meaning of your pain, then ask yourself: Am I as focused and as pained by the tarnishing of Jesus as I am by my own suffering? Have I ever been as concerned and concentrated about the advancement of Christ’s fame as my own times of serious loss? Am I more about me than I am about Jesus?
Suffering will reveal the answer to you.
Your pain (whatever it is) should awaken you to the fact that Jesus is more attacked and more despised than you. Your loss is not to be compared to the cosmic significance that attends Jesus not being glorified by sinners. The suffering of his Glory is greater than your suffering. Does that ever pain you as much as your own pain? Is your own pain more acute to you than the pain you feel for the loss of Christ’s fame in your world?
The temptation of Satan is to focus us on us, or even to focus us on mankind. Do you look upon your pain and then primarily consider yourself or even human suffering in general? That is, are you man-centered or Christ-centered? Does human suffering seem more tragic to you than the suffering of the glory of Jesus? If so, then your suffering is not working.
In pain, no matter how severe, the loss of the glory of Christ is greater, and you must awaken to that. Did you ever run around bummed out that Jesus is not impressive to all the people around you? We easily use our time of pain to seek the comfort of those around us, has the gospel ever evoked in you the same? When you suffer, you get to evaluate your soul and your affections.
And in your lowly estate, you are made ready to relate to the ultimate realities — the complete awareness that Jesus is disbelieved all around. Jesus is under attack, as it were. He is hated. Not worshiping him is greater than your personal feelings of destitution, pain, humiliation and loss. No matter how intense and great your suffering, greater still is the tragedy that Jesus is not worshiped to the fullest.
Are you as emotionally invested in Jesus as you are in your own pain? Does your concentration upon your own circumstances outweigh the attention you give to the spread of Jesus’ majesty? Suffering, when it does its work, will focus you on Jesus, the physician, and take your eyes off of yourself. For in the greatest moments of pain, the resurrection of Jesus becomes more impressive, more important and more precious than your circumstances.
Do you think more of yourself and your lost job, or dead family member, or lost limbs, or crippled child, or tortured soldier than you do of the glory of Jesus? Does your pain focus you again on yourself, or does it make you aware that God himself is not loved by his creatures?
That masses of humans war against our King is more intense a reality than our own loss. Like soldiers in a wartime situation, our own security is less important to us than the real attacks against God that are happening all around us. Losing our small lives is a privilege in the light of victory of the King. And losing our lives is to participate in that victory, for it is only with a resurrection-mind that someone can hate this life in order to gain back bodies at the return of Christ. We live in the light of the resurrection. And suffering brings that into sharp relief. In this way, the Cross is rightly seen for what it is, the Cross is an Instrument of Joy.