Growing Into the Fellowship of Christ’s Sufferings

Woman and Jesus

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”~ C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I recently posted this in a comment on another blog and felt the Lord wanted me to share it with you all.

When we suffer pain, God has a purpose in it. First it makes us to turn to Him alone when everything else in our lives has “gone south.” I had to reach the end of myself before I surrendered to Christ in 1970. If He had not come to me when He did, I would have ended my life. He picked me up and gave me His beauty for my ashes, His joy for my mourning, and His praise in my heart for the spirit of depression and suicide.

Then phase two started, God’s child training. After a wonderful honeymoon with Jesus that lasted ten months, the pain started again, but this time it was my Daddy taking me out to the woodshed (see Hebrews ch. 12). I then went through years of church abuse and disillusionment with what calls itself “the church,” because I found it to be the same dysfunctional family that I grew up with. My father was an alcoholic, but this time the booze of choice was power over the people. God had to let me get kicked around in that system until I quit looking to men for what only He could give. Jesus’ words, “Call no man father, teacher or Rabbi (pastor)” finally took on new meaning and scope. Christ was to become my all in all and He shares that place with no man.

More recently another thing has been happening along the lines of what Paul alluded to in his letters. For years I have licked my wounds and felt the pain of what others have done to me, but now He is letting me feel the pain of what I have done (and am doing) to others instead. It is part of “the fellowship of His sufferings” (See Philippians 3:10). Paul said about a healthy body, “when one member suffers, all members suffer.” I rarely saw this in all my years of church going. Most of my life I have been so absorbed in my own pain that I could not feel what I was doing to others and could not feel Jesus’ pain. He stands before the Father ever making intercession for us as our High Priest who is acquainted with our humanity and sufferings in a very real way. He has been making me feel His empathy as well – feeling the pain and sufferings that others are going through whom I have not affected directly. Paul spoke of wanting to “know the fellowship of His sufferings” and “filling up the sufferings of Christ” in himself. This happens when we finally start to walk as He walks upon this earth, and gladly start embracing the pain that death might work in us so that life might abound to others. It is no longer about “our little owie ” any more, but us reaching out beyond our pain in Christ’s love for others because of our love for Him–such a great love that we even want to be conformed to His death.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Love you all,
Michael

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28 comments on “Growing Into the Fellowship of Christ’s Sufferings

  1. Georgia B. says:

    I’ve never heard that Bonhoeffer quote before, but wow… is it a good one! Such a great and sobering reminder to ease up on the judgement and love as Christ would love us… see others as He sees us.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Michael says:

      Thank you, Georgia. Yes, I just found that quote from Bonhoeffer as I was writing this article. “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

      Someone once said, “Don’t criticize a persons choices in life until you have seen what they have had to chose from.” I know sisters that were sexually abused by parents and pedophiles, brothers who were abused by pedophile priests and teachers in school, many people who have suffered the effect of being brutalized in marriages and wars and any number of the rest of us that had cold and distant parents who didn’t seem to care and saw us more as a burden to be dealt with than a child that needed to be loved and nurtured. Each of us have made our choices from the hand we were dealt and many of those choices have haunted us until Jesus has stepped in and started healing us. The last thing that any of these people need is another Christian looking down their noses and judging them. My favorite phrase in the Bible is “But God…” It is a wonderful two word search in the New Testament. Grace by any other name would be, “But God.”

      “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;) And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:4-6 KJ2000)

      You are a blessing to me. Thanks for writing,
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Brenda says:

        There is so much HOPE in that little phrase, “But God”! When things appear dark, difficult, hopeless, confused, lifeless, there is that shining word from our God of Hope…”But God”! Michael, I have observed that your detailed and careful replies to people, are always worth posting! Thank you for this message about reaching out to those who are hurting, as we have been hurt. It reminds me of 2 Corinthians, chapter 1:

        3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
        4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
        5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.
        6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
        7 ¶ And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Michael says:

        Brenda, you are so kind. But I have to agree with you that this is my prayer… like John Koffee (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) in the “The Green Mile,” I only want to take away some of the pain in the lives of those Jesus puts me in touch with. Reading what you wrote makes me wish that I could have suffered more so I could be used by God more perfectly in this work of consoling others in Christ… more of Jesus and less of me. I must decrease, but He must increase.
        Jesus, I pray that you heal and comfort Brenda in every area of her life and make your love in her evident to all that she meets. Amen

        Liked by 1 person

      • Eta says:

        Hello Michael. This is Eta, Steve’s friend you met. I promised I would look this up and here I am. Thank you for sharing this.

        Like

      • Michael says:

        Hi Eta!!! Yes, thanks for stopping by and commenting on here! Glad you were blessed.
        Love you guys and hope to see you soon!

        Like

  2. Becky says:

    I lived most of my life angry at the pain another caused me to the point of doing the very thing I abhorred in them. A toxic and horrific irony. I was a beautiful blamer, in the darkest days I could manage to lament the weaknesses and failures of my husband and never once have the ability to look myself in the mirror. It all came to a head in the summer of 2007. My husband learned every sordid detail. I was ticked. It seemed this man I had learned to blame was holding up, not a mirror to himself, but me. I was confused and in deep despair. God was drawing me back to Himself in this, but I didn’t know it then, only looking back. It would take many months and a reluctant (at first) surrender to Christ for me to finally feel the betrayal I had made my husband endure by my choices. I wept from my guts. It was messy, I was fully forgiven through Christ and was seeing a whole new perspective on life and others’ hearts. Something He still is doing with me.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Dear Becky, My grandfather anguished over how his kids turned out until he died, one of whom was my alcoholic father. He clung to a verse in his old worn Bible that said, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when is older he will not turn from it.” Well, four of the five of his kids were a disappointment to him. Why did this happen? He made them to go to church every Sunday in a “Bible church.” Yet, it did not take. I never had the heart to tell him that the Scripture say, “Train up a child IN the way…” NOT, “ABOUT the way.” Sister, here lies the problem in many church homes… the love of Christ is substituted by dead religion and law and the children hate it. How much more when you are raised as a preacher’s kid!

      As for what you have discovered with your relationship with you husband, I have discovered has happened in my relationship with my wife. I blamed her for most of 48 years for her being the problem in our marriage and what it lacked and this last year, the Lord showed me that it was ME! Since I repented and released her of all my false expectations, With this revelation from our Father and my repentance, I have been changed and my changing into one who loves her unconditionally has freed her to change as well. God is so good!

      Congratulations, my lovely sister!!!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Camille (the big little sister) says:

        I know you think of our Grandfather as a good man, especially in his old age, but I always think of him as a younger and violent man who raised dysfunctional kids. 😦 He was purported to have held a gun on his kids to make them work (I don’t know any of the details beyond that). And maybe that’s just a tale. The only experience dad ever shared with me about being in a church, was of him sitting in the church and being bothered by a wart on his hand… and how he dealt with the wart… I’ll spare the details because it sounds a little gross.

        But regardless, you are very right. Our dad and most of his siblings were not interested in worshiping God the way God wants to be worshiped.

        What makes some people want to live a spiritual life is a puzzle. Some who are raised by loving and spiritual parents, just don’t want to do right or they can’t see a reason to. (Satan being the best example of a rebellious son of a perfect Father. The prophet Samuel’s son’s are another example.) It’s like the parable of the seeds sown on differing soil. (Luke 8:4-15) We don’t know who is going to be a follower of Jesus or not.

        On a slightly different topic. Do you have a copy of William Barclay’s New Testament Words? I really like this part about “poikilos” starting with the second paragraph from the bottom of the page. “But there is one occasion….” It talks about the multi-colored Grace (undeserved kindness) of God.

        https://books.google.com/books?id=ngnOdquk9DUC&lpg=PA236&dq=poikilos&pg=PA236#v=onepage&q=poikilos&f=false

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael says:

        Camille, what a joy it is for me to see you commenting on my blog as my “Big little sister.” 🙂 I will answer both your comments in this one reply.

        Our grandfather was a good case in point of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer was taking about, “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” Bonhoeffer did not speak from a vacuum. He was imprisoned tortured and murdered by the Nazi’s in Germany for his faith in Christ and speaking out against their abuse of power over his people.

        As for our grandfather, what did he suffer? His father died before he was born and his mother remarried a man that treated him as a slave. He told me a little bit about his youth and it was not pretty. He came to Christ in his early 20’s in a Methodist “brush arbor” meeting and then joined the Southern Baptist denomination in Texas. He lived through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl as he tried to support six kids and a wife on a dry land farm in the Texas panhandle. They were finally force to move to Idaho in the thirties for he was getting silicious of the lungs from all the dust. Yes, he was a hard man and a skinflint with the money he was able to save in his later years. Our dad and his siblings had to work and support the family during the depression as well.

        So you see the hardness of life made him what he was and that hardness was passed on to our father as well and then you can add what our dad went through in WW2. I can look back now and see that he came home from the war with PTSD and nobody acknowledged that it existed back then.

        Now the question is what have WE done as the ball has been passed down to us? What have we done to our children? More hardness and coldness? What are they now manifesting? I can look at my kids and see a marked improvement over what I handed them as their father for they have done a pretty good job with their kids and are kinder and more outwardly loving than I was. Our dad did the best he could with what he had to work with. And you know what? I think our grandad did the same considering what he had to work with. In his old age we would talk about the Bible together and I saw him tear-up as we shared the scriptures together. How five of his six kids turned out was a grief to him until the day he died with their alcoholism, spousal and child abuse and divorces.

        I learned ONE important thing from our grandfather. One day he read me a verse out of the Bible that troubled him, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not turn from it.” He never saw those five kids turn back to Christ after being raised in the Southern Baptist (hard shell) denomination and it grieved him. Yet, the Lord showed me why this happened. That passage says, “Raise up a child IN the way he should go,” not “ABOUT the way he should go.” Religion can not change a heart, but the love of God can. THAT, my sister, is what was missing in the upbringing of our dad… no love or show of affectionate emotions. He was raised up in dead religion which I despise to this day and you and I were raise up in the Mother of those harlots without seeing the love of God in any of it as well. The promise of the NEW Covenant is a NEW heart and a NEW Spirit put within us by God’s grace and without THAT we cannot please God nor do what is right for those around us for we are but flesh under the curse of Adam and Eve who started this whole ball rolling as they rebelled against God. YES, I thank Him for His great grace that meets each one of us where we are at and then draws us forth to Him with the cords of His great love.

        “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.” ~ Jesus of Nazreth

        God bless and keep you always IN His love, Camille,
        Michael

        Like

  3. Pat Orr says:

    I thank you for encouraging us to know the fellowship of His suffering. I believe that God has enough grace that our sufferings do not have to be in vain. We can through Jesus embrace the sufferings that come our way. I think of Hebrews 12: 2 ” looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.” Lord, I pray give us the grace to share your sufferings, and also Your glory as spoken by Jesus in John 17.
    Love in Him,
    Pat Orr

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Dear Pat,
      Thanks for your heart felt comment. You have mentioned two of my favorite places in the Bible the Book of Hebrews and the Gospel of John and chapter 17 of John is where He has had me focused for over two years, what really means to be ONE with the Father and the Son and with one another IN Christ, for this is where we will see the glory shining forth.

      Yes, Lord, I agree with Pat. May we be stripped of everything we cling to that is not of Christ. Let Him so abide in us and our outer shell be so broken that His light shines forth from these clay vessels. Amen. You are precious in His sight Pat.

      “For you desire not sacrifice; else would I give it: you delight not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”(Psalms 51:16-17 KJ2000)

      In His love for you,
      Michael

      Like

  4. Bernie Orr says:

    I remembered that I had your book ETERNAL PURPOSE OF GOD: I got afraid that I duplicated
    your teaching: (ENTERING IN YOUR REST) (LABOR TO ENTER REST) & (REST FOR
    THE PEOPLE) I DID NOT FIND HEB. 4 V 12 OR FRUITS OF THE
    SPIRIT IN THEM.

    I’m afraid that I was mistaken in my reply to you above. The subject is pain and not abiding in CHRIST. I am so eager to share subjects about rest that I did it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Bernie. I guess that I did not know that we had sent you that book. I don’t always remember the thing we have written. That is the way it is when you are only a scribe and not an author, for as far as I am concerned there is only ONE Author and it is by His Spirit that we always try to write as we listen to His voice.
      For the rest of you who read Bernie’s comment, the book he is referring to can be read here online:
      http://www.awildernessvoice.com/Sinai2Zion.html

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “Paul spoke of wanting to “know the fellowship of His sufferings” and “filling up the sufferings of Christ” in himself. This happens when we finally start to walk as He walks upon this earth, and gladly start embracing the pain that death might work in us so that life might abound to others. It is no longer about “our little owie ” any more, but us reaching out beyond our pain in Christ’s love for others because of our love for Him–such a great love that we even want to be conformed to His death.”

    Yes and amen, Michael. Or in other words,

    “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

    That was a very honest and touching posting, again, my brother. ⭐

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Susanne, I see you are familiar with brother Bonhoeffer as well. He said some very poignant things about life and the way of the cross before he was kill in a German prison during WW2. Yes, When Christ calls a man [or woman] he bids them to come an die. Thank you for your kindness to me,
      Your brother and friend,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  6. kenneth dawson says:

    Its really ironic that in order to learn how to actually live life you have to experience death.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael says:

      Yes, Kenneth, it is ironic. With many of us our “lives” have been a series of deaths, dying to all manner of things we once hoped for and depended on and even loved as we press on into His kingdom. Jesus said, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39 RSVA). How about this promise from Jesus to His followers, “In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world”? Irony seems not to be strong enough a word when we try to understand a God who say that our thoughts are not His thoughts and our ways are not His ways. Yet men in their meager intellects try to understand a God like this and define Him and call it “theology.” Now THAT’S ironic to me!

      Thanks for your comment, my brother.

      Like

  7. xoxogracey says:

    This scripture came to mind when I read your entry: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16)

    … because it is the same principle of Christ that is tied with the “sufferings” we do endure for His Name’s sake.. and I come to know that He uses our pain (caused by others and ourselves) for us to get to know Him.. the Lord Jesus as Truth (reality) and Life and Way and all that He said He is.. and cleave to Him as the Head of our body.. that we may walk unto the fullness of Him in the power of His resurrection.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Dear Grace,
      Thank you for sharing this! It is both getting to know HIM (or is it being known by Him?) that makes us want to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. Like I wrote to Brenda, just now, Christ in us wants to love with a sacrificial love through us, so like Paul said, death works in us that Life might abound to others. THAT is the work of the Gospel! We are to be living letters to be seen and read of men. Jesus said, “I came that you might have LIFE and that more abundantly.” Out of an abundant death to that old man in us, springs forth HIS abundant life to others around us. By this we know Love, because we lay down our lives for others.
      Bless you as He continues to break open your outer shell through sufferings, that Christ might freely shine forth from withing you, dear Grace.
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  8. How easy we forget that Jesus did more than suffer so we might make it to a glorious place…..He suffered that we might learn to follow in His footsteps in suffering….that we might share in His glory. He identified with us, that we might identify with Him.

    “Therefore we have been buried with Him through (spiritual) baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”

    One thing is for sure, Clay Crosse once sang a song along these lines called “He walked a mile”
    Any of you remember that one? It’s worth a listen, or two.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Camille (the big little sister) says:

    Going along with what you wrote about “our little owie”, I think it’s good to remember the big (universal) picture. The BIG picture is that God’s name was slandered and his sovereignty challenged by Satan in the Garden of Eden. What is required to return the universe to it’s proper state is found in the Lord’s Prayer. God’s name must be sanctified, and his sovereignty must take full control of the earth, the way it is in control already in Heaven. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom referred to in that prayer, and the kingdom will be the means by which God returns the universe to the proper order.

    So next to that, even our individual salvation is not the BIG issue. Our individual salvation can’t occur if the universe remains out of order forever. And in the mean time we suffer because Satan’s interference and our own bad choices. But we prove that Satan is a liar when we continue to try to do right in the face of pain (agony) and frustration. (Proverbs 27:11)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ken Burgess says:

    Michael, I recently read the most wonderful definition of compassion that I’ve ever seen. According to the person that wrote this the literal translation of the hebrew word for compassion means, “rushing to suffering.” Or looked at another way due to the many suffering folks who sought HiM out, “those who suffer rush to Jesus.” Either way is beautiful. In Matthew 20:29-33 we see a marvelous demonstration of this word by Jesus.
    29 “As they were leaving Jericho, a large crown followed HiM. There were two bind men sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd told them to keep quiet but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
    Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you”
    Lord, “they said to HiM, “open our eyes!” Moved with COMPASSION, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed HiM.

    This has opened the eyes of my heart to the suffering around me. Thankfully my attention is not so much on the things I have suffered through my own near death in the natural but the dying daily to my self life has caused me to see, really see much more clearly the life, HiS life that I now have to share with all those He sends me to or sends to me. You put this so wonderfully in last paragraph above. “This happens when we finally start to walk as He walks upon this earth, and gladly start embracing the pain that death might work in us so that life might abound to others.”

    He gave HiS ALL to us that we may give HiS ALL to others. All life. All love. All peace. All truth. ALL healing. ALL compassion. How much is ALL? ALL means ALL!!

    1 Corinthians 8: (ESV)

    5 “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist”.

    I love you brother and look forward to spending time with y’all soon.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Dear Ken, You wrote, “I recently read the most wonderful definition of compassion that I’ve ever seen. According to the person that wrote this the literal translation of the hebrew word for compassion means, ‘rushing to suffering.’” For one to rush to suffering definitely defines what compassionate people do. Jesus was filled with compassion for the lost and suffering around Him and He STILL is! As we read in Hebrews, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 RSVA).

      I grew up in the Catholic church with a view of God and Christ being “afar off.” We were taught by the nuns that God was so holy that He could not be approached by mere mortals at all. So we had to pray to Jesus, yet Jesus was so holy that He was really above us as well. For this reason the nuns taught us that His mother, Mary was the one to pray to for SHE was His mother and He HAS to listen to HER! And then were the prayer specialists, the saints. There is a patron saints for every occasion and occupation. If you lost something you prayed to St. Anthony, if you wanted safe travels you prayed to St. Christopher, if you are a prostitute or a sailor (interestingly enough) you prayed to St. Nicholas, etc. All this taught us that God was cold and impersonal and could care less about us unwashed masses that sat in the pews. We were left with doing endless sacraments and good works as we tried to win His favor.

      Yet, this is not the God of the New Testament at all who is filled with compassion for us, knowing our frame and sending His Son to us with salvation, sanctification and healing in His wings. Thank you for your comment, my brother.

      “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having a high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22 KJ2000)

      I am looking forward to spending time with you soon,
      Michael

      Like

  11. As usual, a moving post, Michael. The Bonhoeffer quote especially spoke to me. When we ask in prayer for God’s heart, we must not be surprised that it is broken.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Michael says:

      Oh Anna, you have done it again… holding back the tears. You touched my heart with your piercing insight as to what a great and loving God we have.
      Thank you for staying in touch,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Allan Halton says:

    Greetings, Michael, after so long a time! I am looking forward to sharing in this special fellowship together with you– the fellowship of His sufferings.

    One thing that I discover I greatly need is the Lord’s mercy in removing the scales from my eyes so that, when one of my brothers or sisters is suffering, I am able to recognize HIM. Oh, how blind I have been at times! How often I have prayed, Lord, how deeply I need to see You… and then have failed to see Him right before my eyes in a brother who was going through a very hard thing. And thus I missed an opportunity to share in the fellowship of His sufferings.

    It’s a very large “fellowship” these days!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Allan, Yes, my brother, God knows that there is enough suffering in this world to go around to all who would dare to know Christ in this special way.

      Allan, my prayer has been that Father might let me see His saints as HE sees them and to look past the outward things that are thrown up for us to see, and see their hearts and their deep wounds that make them act and react the way they do. He showed me that Jesus always spoke to people’s hearts, not their heads, whether it was the Pharisee Nicodemus or the Samaritan woman at the well. In proverbs we read, “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”(Proverbs 4:23 KJ2000). God looks upon the hearts of mankind for there is found those things which are eternal. Yes, Allan, we truly need His mercy and His grace and a willingness to suffer with those who are hurting and a willingness to enter into their pain with them.

      Liked by 2 people

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