In his letters, Paul was very clear about one thing: No earthly suffering is too much if it leads to Heaven as the reward.
Heaven is our reward if God judges that we’ve earned it. Most Christians have lost sight of that. Instead of longing for Heaven, they do everything in their power to postpone death. They run to the doctor, they demand a cure, they beg for prayers so they won’t die. Why is that?
Heaven is our home. Our souls were made there. If we die in God’s grace, we get to go home. This is our reward for whatever we’ve suffered during our time on Earth. There is no suffering in Heaven. Not even for an instant. It’s entirely pain-free.
Yes, suffering is part of being human, but there is a right way to suffer and a wrong way to suffer.
Most of us suffer the wrong way. We complain. We point fingers. We take Tylenol. We try to lessen the suffering. We sue. We threaten. We press charges. We play the victim. We even take matters into our own hands and try to mete back “justice” to whoever is inflicting the suffering on us.
The right way to suffer is the way that Jesus suffered: silently, uncomplaining, and praying for those inflicting the suffering.
Keep in mind that most (not all, but most) of our suffering we’ve brought on ourselves. It’s payback for our bad choices in life. God’s justice is perfect, which means that if we’re suffering, we’ve either brought it on ourselves or God is testing us to see if we’re all talk and no action. So, if we boast that we’d never betray Jesus, God will test us, like he tested Peter. Most of us will say: “I wouldn’t have done that – I wouldn’t have denied knowing Jesus!”, but are we being honest with ourselves? During the last supper, ALL of the disciples insisted that they would never betray Jesus, and yet, just a few hours later, ALL of them betrayed Jesus.
We are now at our ease, living in relative comfort. We all insist: “I would NEVER deny knowing Jesus! I would never betray him!”, and that’s what we believe, being warm, well-fed, and pain-free.
But no-one wants to suffer, even if they know they’ve brought it on themselves. No-one wants to willingly put themselves in a position to feel cold, hunger and pain. Even short-term discomfort we shy away from. Our shoes have to be comfortable, our seats have to be comfortable, the people and ideas we interact with have to make us feel comfortable or we shun them. If we’ve become so soft that we can’t tolerate even minor conflict, how are we supposed to endure genuine long-term suffering?
What is impossible for man is possible with God. The same disciples who fled from the Roman soldiers when they arrested Jesus, later willingly endured immense pain and suffering for The Name. What happened to change them so radically?
God’s Spirit happened.
After they were born-again, God’s Spirit was with the disciples, strengthening them.
So don’t rely on your own strength to endure to the end. You won’t make it on your own strength. Rely on God’s. When tests come, when suffering comes, rely on God to get you through, even if it means that, like Jesus, you have to feel pain for a while. The pain will eventually subside and then one day, if you die in God’s grace, it will stop.
And then you get to go home.