A friend of mine had a catch phrase of sorts that he used to tell me all the time: “Suffer well.”
American Christianity is one that often likes to yell “Persecution!” every time something makes them feel ostracized or uncomfortable. In other countries Christians are willingly persecuted to death, but we sometimes lose our minds like entitled children because society was mean, unfair, or disagreed with us.
After Paul had been insulted, given death threats, thrown in prison, stoned, and chased out of cities, he walked into Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit told him he would need to be willingly persecuted. He was quickly beaten by a mob and nearly set up to get flogged before being chained up in prison. Once there, a group of 40+ people made a vow not to eat or drink until they had murdered him.
Paul, like Jesus, was called into suffering. Paul, like Jesus, suffered well. Unlike American Christianity, the earliest apostles actually “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”
We need a better ethic of suffering. It’s not that we’re supposed to go out looking for it, but we will struggle to grow spiritually without it since suffering always tests our faith to see if it can stand. Running away from it (at least when it’s necessary to endure it) teaches us nothing and keeps us weak and vulnerable to the next bigger suffering that comes along. May we suffer well, like Jesus, Paul, the apostles, and the martyrs all over the world.
*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 23:12-24 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net.