Embrace the Plunge

by Julie Zine Coleman

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” 2 Corinthians 4:11 NASB

The water was COLD. Driven into the ocean after becoming overheated in the hot sun, I stood in it up to my knees, wincing as the periodic waves drenched me a little higher with each step forward. I knew a quick dip would put an end to the painful, slow progression. But I just couldn’t do it. Avoiding the shock, I continued to inch my way in. I couldn’t bring myself to make the plunge.

We all hate pain. We’ll do anything to avoid it.

Paul told the Philippians that God had granted them suffering. Granted? Providing an opportunity to suffer was some kind of benevolent gesture, a giving of something desirable? What is this?

No one likes to suffer. Neither did Paul! Yet he regarded his suffering as a favor from God. How could he? Paul looked past the temporary to the eternal. He saw suffering as a means to invaluable and eternal benefits.

1. Suffering is a path to knowing Jesus better.

 We follow a suffering Savior. It only makes sense that walking in his footsteps will involve suffering in our journey as well. Sharing that common experience will develop an intimacy in our relationship with Him that would not have possible without it.

 “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…” (Philippians 3:8 NASB). Paul saw sharing the sufferings of Christ as a means to knowing Him.

2. Suffering produces glory.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NASB).

God has purposed to conform all believers to the image of Jesus Christ. Transformation requires change, but change does not come easily. Suffering forces us to abandon old habits or ways of thinking and moves us forward into the new.

The good news is that the end result of sharing Jesus’ suffering will be sharing his glory as well! Romans 8:17 NASB tells us “…if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”  

3. Suffering teaches us how to access the power of Christ.

“He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB).

God makes His amazing power available to us. Sometimes accessing that power can only come after finding our own resources insufficient. Paul saw his “thorn in his flesh” as a means to that end and so embraced his weakness. Suffering reveals the reality of our insufficiency and drives us deeper in our sense of dependency on God. “For when I am weak,” Paul mused, “then I am strong.”

4. Suffering makes us more effective for God’s Kingdom.

“[God] comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted…” (2 Corinthians 1:4 NASB).

My daughter was blind-sided many years ago with a debilitating illness. For three years, her life was completely interrupted. As our family crawled through that torturous time, we clung to two facts: one, that the pain would enable us to know Jesus far better, and two, our experience would give us insight (and a resulting empathy) into other people’s pain. She is now able to minister to people I can’t touch, because she has been in their shoes.

When suffering comes along, and it does more often than we wish, it can be overwhelming. But instead of thinking “Why me?”, we can choose to keep our eyes focused on the Savior, who, through suffering, made a relationship with God possible for us. Now God is using pain once again, this time to bring us further along in that relationship. We must look past the temporary to the eternal. We must choose to trust in His good intentions. Taking that plunge will give relief and peace through the process.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the authorJulie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Have you seen positive effects from suffering in your life? Please share!

5 thoughts on “Embrace the Plunge

  1. Julie, thank you for this post. I live with chronic pain and your blog really spoke to my heart in a way nothing else has. Blessings! I’m printing it out and putting it in my Bible to reread.

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  2. I love this! Our son passed away following complications of cystic fibrosis. He struggled for 14 years with that disease plus 7 years of kidney failure and dialysis. During that time, I saw him embrace all of your points so that he grew closer to Jesus. The results were the glory of God reflected in his attitude and in all of his life, visible to all who knew him and took care of him. No one could imagine the degree to which he suffered–they were seeing the light of Christ. Praise God!

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