As our family was studying God’s magnificent heavenly banquet, I posed this question to my children, “What if God’s banquet that he offers us right now is suffering? Will you accept?”
I wanted my children to be well-aware that before the promised banquet meal, God promises us suffering and persecution. I know this sounds like an “almost heretical” statement in some Christian circles, and yet the Scriptures seem pretty clear on this point.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:27
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. Philippians 1:28.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12
I began to think about the words of Rev. Richard Wurmbrand when he was in solitary confinement, in the Ministry of the Interior’s secret basement prison. At this point he had been a pastor, evangelist and had already suffered greatly in prison. Yet, Rev. Wurmbrand asked himself these questions,
I had God. But had I really lived to serve God – or was it simply my profession?
Did I believe in God? Now the test had come. I was alone. There was no salary to earn, no golden opinions to consider. God offered me only suffering – would I continue to love Him (In God’s Underground, 52)?
Wurmbrand rightly identified that his suffering was ultimately from God. The evils of communism and the sin of man had surely brought about his persecution, and yet God not only allowed it, but ordained it. Would Wurmbrand continue to love and serve a God who gave him beatings, mockery, humiliation and isolation? He said,
Slowly, I learned that on the tree of silence hangs the fruit of peace. I began to realize my real personality, and made sure that it belonged to Christ. I found that even here my thoughts and feelings turned to God and that I could pass night after night in prayer, spiritual exercise, and praise. I knew now that I was not play-acting, believing that I believe (In God’s Underground, 53).
Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.” Job was a man who experienced tremendous suffering and at the time didn’t understand it at all. And yet in this one verse, we know that Job remained fiercely committed to God, despite the fact that he recognized the suffering as from God’s own hand.
The Bible promises us a cross to bear. Will you accept it? Will you continue to believe in God despite this? Like Rev. Wurmbrand and Job, will you continue to serve a God in the midst of the suffering that He allows?
My children were not surprised that I asked them this question. We have these kind of conversations quite regularly. I consider it a part of our daily discipleship routine. I certainly wasn’t looking for a quick, emotionally charged response from them.
But they did respond in a quiet, reassuring manner, while acknowledging the suffering of Christians around the world and of the suffering that’s promised to them.