Suffering in Light of the Gospel

As believers in Christ, we seek to understand everything in light of the Cross. The Gospel is the lens though which we understand the world, draw strength for daily living, and discover ultimate hope. Nowhere is this truer than in the area of suffering.

While there are many passages that teach us how to suffer in light of the Gospel, Hebrews 12 is one of the most vivid. Notice how the author weaves together our suffering with the suffering of Jesus:

Jesus’ Mission (vv. 1-3)

  • Jesus endured suffering (vv. 2-3)
  • The end of His suffering is glory (v. 2)

Our Mission (vv. 4-12)

  • We endure suffering (v. 7)
  • The end of our suffering is fruit (vv. 10-11)

For the author of Hebrews, Jesus’ suffering serves as a pattern for us. There is even a repetition of a key word: “endured” (vv. 2, 7). Just like a zipper brings together the teeth on both sides of a garment, the author zips together our suffering with the cross of Christ.

This pattern is not unique to the book of Hebrews. The apostles routinely call us to understand our own suffering in light of the cross. Consider Romans 8:16-17: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Peter does something similar: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

What does this mean practically? The only way that a believer can come to grips with suffering in his or her own life is by coming to grips with the pain in Jesus’ life. We cannot even understand suffering apart from the Gospel. This is why the passage in Hebrews begins with the words, “Consider Him…” (v. 3) In other words, when you as a believer experience a trial, the first move is always to look to the cross.

It has been wisely said, “If God can make sense of the suffering of Jesus, He can most certainly make sense of the suffering in your life.” Hebrews 12 reveals four important points about Gospel-centered suffering: the possibility, the progress, the purpose, and the potential. We uncover the first in the next post.

Comments

  1. [...] But I tend to think that there is more to this walking in the steps of Jesus than we often would like to admit.  For proof I offer the testimony of the Apostle Peter.  Not long after Peter’s great confession, Jesus starts talking about dying and Peter tells Him off.  Jesus fires back at Peter “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).  Jesus is calling Peter to walk like Him, and by this He means that Peter and all of His other disciples must take up crosses.  Peter heard Jesus explain that in the kingdom of God, loss=gain, losing=finding, gaining=forfeiting, and a cross=glory.  What a bizarre thought!  Finally, towards the end of his life, the Apostle Peter speaks to the churches of Asia and elaborates on this idea.  Peter told the Christians who were about to suffer the worst persecution they had ever known that they were called to follow in Christ’s steps (1 Peter 2:21).  By this Peter meant far more than just going around and doing good things.  Peter meant that they ought to be ready to follow in the example of the suffering of Jesus Christ.  Peter goes on to expand on the point that Jesus made to him those years ago.  He lays out the following paradigm: [...]