Fellowship of Suffering ~ A Divine Exchange
by Lori Rauzi
Open my eyes to clearly see; the path
You took of humility.
Aide my ears to every sound;
Your silence cried out when beaten down.
Enhance my taste to every good
that joy in pain You understood.
Train my scent to know the prayer
of tears of blood that broke the snare.
Then full my arms to Thee embrace
as I fellowship in sufferings face to face!
"Consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in Your mind." ~Hebrews 12:3
Today is Thanksgiving, and I know I have much to be thankful for, but all day I was feeling the seeming irony of the fact that my family is going through so much suffering right now. But then I realized earlier tonight that suffering is something I need to be thankful for as well, along with all the good. Not only because it helps me grow, but because it brings me closer to Christ, as I understand more about who He is and about what He did for me. This understanding is an example of where I suddenly understand something new about a passage I thought I knew well.
Phillipians 3:8-11 "More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death."
The term "fellowship of His sufferings" was something I'd only vaguely understood before, and I know God will continue to teach me more about it in years to come, but I'm so thankful that I have gained a little bit more understanding through the tender whisperings of the Spirit within me. I now realize that the purging the LORD does in my life, and the sufferings I go through in that purging, is directly related to how I become conformed to Him, and to His death. It is yet another revelation regarding who I am in Him, and I marvel over and over again at His grace. No, suffering isn't enjoyable, but my spiritual joy can still remain constant, because if I respond to my Heavenly Father's love while in my suffering, He will then draw me closer, revealing to me more about Himself and what He did for me. Once I completely trust Him and place my suffering in His hands, I will then be able to accept the gift of peace He has waiting for me, because He is then my focus, and not the pain in my heart.
I won't go into the specifics of the sufferings myself and my family have been going through, because that will do nothing to draw me to Christ, or to encourage another believer. The basics of it however are that at the moment I am faced with the fear of losing friendships I have had for years, with people I care deeply about, mainly because of the stand I am taking here as I write, and in my decision to not remain anonymous. However, I know the LORD is using all this for good, no matter the outcome, because already He is drawing me closer to Himself, and proving Himself over and over again trustworthy. I was already convinced of His ability to care for me and provide for my every need, but He is now teaching me how to apply that knowledge in my life, and is showing me how to cling to Him even tighter.
My emotional and spiritual well-being does not depend on the words, actions, or sentiments of any other person. The LORD is my all in all. He is my Rock, my refuge, my fortress, and I am gaining more and more understanding of what Paul meant when he said "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." (Phillipians 4:11)
I have so much to be thankful for. Not because my life is perfect, but because my Father is faithful. My Abba will never leave me or forsake me. He desires me to rest in the fullness of His embrace, and find peace and supernatural joy in my suffering, as I begin to understand His Son in His suffering as we stand face to face.
(The poem at the beginning of this post was written a few weeks ago by a very good friend of my family's, and she shared the poem with us as we celebrated Thanksgiving together today. I had already been thinking a lot about the correlation between thanksgiving and suffering, so when she read the poem, it helped me to see what it is that my Heavenly Father was trying to show me. That suffering is so much more than a means to spiritual growth; it brings me closer to His Son. I thought the poem so beautiful in its simplicity, I wanted to share it here and Lori gave me her permission to share it. I hope it encourages others the way it encouraged me.)