Suffering: How We “Flesh Out” God’s Kingdom

Andrew Murray explains it best:

The Christian often tries to forget his weakness: God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it: God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness: Christ teaches His servant to say, ‘I take pleasure in infirmities; most gladly will I glory in my infirmities.’The Christian thinks his weakness his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God: God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives us our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

Own Your Weakness

It is a totally different way of looking at suffering. Not as the world perceives it but as the Bible explains it, for God’s power always shows up best in our weakness.

Own your weakness. Take responsibility for it. See it as an ally, not an enemy. God cares too much—way too much—about us to leave us wallowing in self-pity in a dark hospital solarium, listening to depressing songs. And so through the strange blessing of weakness, he pushes and prods us to take him at his Word. Own your weakness. Take responsibility for it. See it as an ally, not an enemy. Click To Tweet

Is there a physical challenge too great? Is there a disability too profound? Is there physical pain too chronic? The apostle Paul says, “Although he [Jesus] was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power” (2 Cor 13:4). An amazing transaction occurs in this verse. As Jesus yielded his suffering to his Father, he received God’s power. And in so doing, he makes us more than conquerors — for when we see ourselves as weak, Jesus makes it possible for us to live by the power of God.

Responding to Suffering

Little wonder the apostle Paul tells us to own our suffering. He wants us to delight in it and boast in it. Glory in your infirmities, for then Christ’s power rests on you.

It is not that weakness is merely a prerequisite for God’s power; they exist simultaneously when a wounded, broken heart stops asking “Why?” with a clenched fist and starts asking “Why?” with a searching heart. Divine power washes away discouragement when a bruised and battered soul simply looks Godward. This is the way I counsel people with disabilities who are struggling to put depression behind them. At Joni and Friends, we believe that the Word of God is sufficient for every counseling need, even when you are bedridden, paralyzed, and hooked up to a ventilator.

The Christian’s response to suffering is to act on all that Jesus secured for us through his death and resurrection. On the cross, he began reversing the effects of the Fall, and our responsibility is to help the world understand what that looks like. Where we see despair, we offer hope. Where we see disability, we impart wholeness and healing. Where we see poverty and homelessness, we offer the security and significance of knowing Christ as well as a change in community structures. Where we see injustice, we labor to bring about impartiality and righteousness.

Fleshing Out the Kingdom

As Christians, it is our job to reclaim this broken world under the family banner of Jesus Christ. We reclaim earth as rightfully his when we “flesh out” what Christ’s Kingdom looks like: “For the Kingdom of God is . . . living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too” (Rom 14:17-18). We reclaim earth as rightfully his when we “flesh out” what Christ’s Kingdom looks like Click To Tweet

It’s all about passing on the hope. God is doing everything from his end; everything to alleviate the affliction of people with disabilities here in the West and around the world. He is bending over backward to show people that cerebral palsy is not a curse from animist spirits. He is doing everything to rescue disabled children abandoned in dumpsters. He is heaven-bent on restoring broken marriages. He is fighting; his Holy Spirit is battling on behalf of every adult and child who has autism, Down syndrome, spina bifida, or a spinal cord injury.

He has called you to fight alongside him. I can’t think of a higher and more holy calling. As my brother or sister in Christ, be a blessing to others through your own brokenness. Tell hurting people about the soon and coming Messianic Banquet (Isa 25:6-9; Luke 14:7-24). Go where injustice, bigotry, and bias are the order of the day, and work for a new order. Go where the Kingdom is weak, and make it strong. Go where the world is bleeding out of control, and apply the gospel tourniquet. Go where the Good News barely has a toe-hold, and plant the flag of the King. As you do, you will have the indisputable favor of God.

Learn more about Joni Eareckson Tada and the Beyond Suffering Bible here.

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