"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin," Hebrews 12:2-4.
There I was, in small town Nebraska, screaming at the top of my lungs, "the cross, the cross" as Dinesh D'souza was struggling to explain the meaning of suffering. Why he had been invited to present his new book on an evangelical radio show, I do not know, but he promised that this was the most difficult question for the Christian to answer and it was not a problem that other religions had to deal with. Eventually, he settled on a little Mother Teresa theology by pointing to God's eternality and the blessedness of our suffering. He stated, for example, that Job would be recompensed for his suffering by an eternity of blessedness in God's presence. Finally, the talk show host, threw him a life preserver and mentioned the cross. Dinesh jumped on it and mercifully that segment of the show was over.
When you read Hebrews 10 through 12, it is hard to imagine how a Christian would be confused about suffering. We worship a crucified Savior. In fact, the writer of Hebrews seems to be chastising his readers(including us) for thinking that they will escape suffering. In fact, God uses our suffering to grow our faith. Now, we do not go out and look to suffer, as Mother Teresa(and other false teachers) promoted. What we do is preach and live the gospel, no matter the circumstance. If that means that we will be persecuted, we will be persecuted. Just two pages over in my Bible, James writes this, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." James seems to echo his half brothers(Jesus) sentiments by exhorting us to have joy in our suffering. A suffering that we fall into, not seek for ourselves. James agrees Hebrews about the benefit of our suffering and the perseverance it produces.
Interestingly, believers in countries that are suffering greatly, rarely if ever question why they suffer. It is the coddled, fat and sassy western Christians who think that God owes them a comfy life that never so much as stubs a toe. This kind of "faith" is no faith at all and will be exposed for its hypocrisy when pain and suffering afflict the western world. Those who follow in seeker sensitive churches, health and wealth prosperity churches and many other professing Christians will quickly abandon the faith of the suffering Savior when the slightest inconvenience happens let alone a vicious persecution.
I will end this post where I started, on the same Christian radio show, a couple of days later. Another writer was on, this one had a different perspective. He stated, paraphrasing, "What a stupid question(why pain and suffering), the real question is, why does God bless us so much." Friends, we need to, as Hebrews 12 exhorts us, remember our loving and great crucified Savior and learn, love and live His gospel.