Fellowship of Suffering

  • June 27, 2011
  • #7606

Joni shares that there is no better way to identify with Christ than by sharing in His sufferings.

There’s a special club just for Christians… and I wonder, are you a member?

Hi, I'm Joni Eareckson Tada and welcome to this edition of "Joni and Friends" where today I want to talk about this “club.” My little friend Shannon sure wants to join it. She’s only 8 years old and not long ago she sent me a note. She had drawn some pretty scribbles and written in different color crayons. It read, “Dear Joni, I like my cat and I like school. I like recess, too. When I grow up, I want to have a wheelchair just like yours!” I had to laugh. Because Shannon doesn’t need a wheelchair – she’s a healthy, active little girl, she has no need for a wheelchair. But you try telling her that! As far as she is concerned, a wheelchair would top her birthday wish list. To her, a wheelchair means adventure; it means a joy ride. A wheelchair means an initiation into a very special club, the club that Joni belongs to.

The thing is, this child hasn’t got a clue about the price one actually pays to join that club -- the pain, the disappointment, the hardship, the hurdles. She discounts all of that and totally disregards the dark side, considering it not worth even knowing. All she wants is a chance to identify with me, to know me, to be like me – and if that means having a wheelchair like mine, then great, she’ll take it. You know… every time I read Philippians chapter 3, I think of Shannon’s glad-hearted spirit. You can almost hear it in Paul’s words when he says, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.” There you have it. There’s no better way to know Jesus, than to gladly join His club. There’s no better way to identify with Him, to be like Him and to know Him than to gain initiation into the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. 

Because suffering does have a way of taking life out of the “abstract,” doesn’t it; out of the theoretical and making it painfully real. Because when you suffer (and you can understand), when you hurt deeply, you realize you’re not handling theological, tidy, neat and orderly ideas… no, you are being handled by a person -- the intimate person of Jesus. At other times when life is easier, you might slide by with knowing about Him, with imitating Him and quoting Him and speaking about Him – but only in the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings do you get pressed up against His transforming life, and the cross, the symbol of His greatest suffering, becomes the touch point—your touch point-- with the God of the universe. 

Now I'm not asking you to beg membership into the club as little Shannon would, but there is something about her childlike abandon that endears her to the Lord, I’m sure. And all I'm asking today is that you do the same with your hardships – that you recognize that your sufferings can draw you closer to your Savior, much closer than if you never experienced affliction. Now I realize that’s hard to hear, and you may have a difficult time swallowing it. You may, in fact, be angry about your circumstances. If so, I want to help you get past that and I have a booklet called “Angry at God?” that I’d like to send you – it talks about the doubts and questions we all have when we get hit broadside with suffering. If you’d like a copy, just visit my radio page at joniandfriends.org and it’s yours. 

Finally, remember, you don’t have to choose suffering; just choose God's will, as Jesus did on His cross. And when you do, you’ll find yourself being initiated deeper into the club. Yes, it’s hard, but don’t worry – membership there has its privileges. And all you have to do is ask Shannon.

© Joni and Friends

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