Suffering cannot be avoided if we are really to know Christ…(Hebrews 4:15; 5:2)…”I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10)…
But what is the nature of Christ’s suffering that we must share, in order fully to know his fellowship? His suffering included poverty and humiliation, pain and death. All of these he endured for us. We must not forget this altruistic dimension of his afflictions. He suffered to take on himself the guilt and consequences of the sins of others. Thus, if we are to know him through like suffering, we will not merely have to experience the difficulty of nameless forces and circumstances; we must also experience what it means to suffer for the sins of others. We must be willing to endure and love the damaged and damaging personalities who make us suffer. This is Luther’s theology of the cross—the understanding that our deepest knowing of the One who bore the cross for us in some measure depends on our own cross-bearing of the miseries of this world and even of the miserableness of others.
…Whether we suffer under the weight of circumstances or under the weightiness of bearing the consequences of the sins of others—these disciplines teach us more of what Christ endured for us. As a result, we know him to a degree and depth not available through any other means of study or contemplation.
The discipline of suffering shows us how tender and tenacious was Christ’s care for us. The body blows that come, the accusations, the deprivations, the betrayals—in each we can say, “Ah, Lord Jesus, now I understand more deeply who you are and how much you loved me, for you endured this when you could have escaped it all. You suffered for my sake and that of countless others who caused you pain. Ah, Jesus, now I know you.”
Bryan Chapell in
Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That is Our Strength,
pp.170-172 (Emphasis added)
So, just what does this mean for us? It means we can look trials, difficulties and suffering brought to our lives by the sin of others—yes, even by other believers—and we can stare it down! We can smile to ourselves when someone sins against us, knowing “it ain’t about us!” It is all about God conforming us to the image of Christ, it is about “knowing Christ and the fellowship of his sufferings”!
I shared this with a friend a few weeks ago, and told him that this core truth has made a huge difference in my life, particularly in the case of extreme hurt brought about by a family member in the distant past. Not only did I wrestle with the whole concept of God’s providence at that time, but I also struggled with forgiveness. God worked in the intervening years, and brought me to a point where forgiveness truly took place. Yes, it “should not” have taken as long as it did, but he did bring it about. My view of the impact of the sin of others on my life and on the lives of those I love is completely different now. Now I can say, “Bring it on!” Why? Because of what Christ did on the cross, because of the gospel.