But Also to Suffer
Amy Carmichael once spent a day in solitude in a cave in Japan, wrestling in a prayer over some secret matter which she never revealed to anyone. It seems she feared loneliness. The words which were given to her then in answer to her cry were Paul’s to the Philippians when he was in prison and they were being persecuted: “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). She understood then that the Lord was not promising escape from the thing she feared, but assurance that whatever He might allow of suffering in her life would be a privilege and a gift – a thing given to her to give to Him, something which she could expect would accompany her faith. To believe in Christ is to suffer for Him.
In Jesus’ last discourse with His disciples He explained the same truth. John 14 records His wonderfully comforting words, “Set your troubled hearts at rest”, His description of where He was going and why, His clear teaching on obedience as the only proof of love, and the promise of His gift of peace. In the next two chapters we find His prediction of the suffering His disciples should expect – hatred, persecution, their words ignored, their entrance into the synagogues refused, even death.” A servant is not greater than his master,” He said. “It is on my account that they will treat you thus” (15:20,21).
Some newsletter readers will be suffering on the very day that this arrives in the mail. The message it brings is not a new one. Jesus knew that His disciples would often need reminders of the things He had taught them while He was with them. Suffering would tempt them to wonder if the whole thing had been for nothing –their original decision to follow Him, the three years of listening and trying to learn, the price they had paid to be disciples. Amy Carmichael, alone in that cave, must have been filled with similar questions, although her suffering was of a different kind from the disciples’. Had she missed His call? Was her work for nothing? What to do with this fear that haunted her?
Don’t be afraid to bring your questions to the Lord and hear His loving assurances: “Your grief will be turned into joy…For the moment, you are sad at heart; but I shall see you again and then you will be joyful and no one shall rob you of your joy….I have told you all this so that in me you may find peace. In the world you will have trouble. But courage! The victory is mine; I have conquered the world” (John 16:20, 22, 33). Peace is to be found in Him who entered into all our sorrow, knows it from the inside, and asks us to accept the hardest thing as a privilege, a gift, yes, even as an honor – because we have put our trust in Him.