I have not suffered well. To explain this, we must look to the Word of God and unleash the meaning of what the Apostle Paul was writing to the church at Philippi…
“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me” (Philippians 1:27-30, NKJV).
The word “conduct” is a Greek word, politeuomai, which was a term coined for being a good citizen; not doing anything that would dishonor your country or the political body that you belong to. The people of Philippi were considered a Roman colony and being a good citizen meant taking very seriously your role in honoring the empire. John MacArthur writes, “If the citizens of Philippi were so devoted to the honor of their human kingdom, how much more should believers be devoted to the kingdom of Christ?” In other words, our conduct, which is an example of our honor to Jesus, should be “worthy of the gospel of Christ”—having integrity and living a life consistent with what we believe, teach, and preach.
Okay, that all sounds great. I can do that. Right? Well, I can. But I haven’t. The Apostle continues on and describes how one’s conduct would be worthy. Paul describes several things in this passage that would make a believer’s conduct worthy of the gospel—being unified in spirit and fellowship with other believers (“one spirit… one mind”), struggling alongside one another for victory against a common foe (“striving together”), willingly suffering without fear as a sign that God’s enemies will be destroyed (“not… terrified… proof of perdition”), and suffering well, knowing that your suffering is a gift of God’s grace to bring you power, character, and eternal reward (“granted… to suffer”). I do pretty well with those first two. I strive for unity with other believers. I try to overlook differences of opinions or things that don’t really have any bearing on salvation and the kingdom of God. I struggle alongside other believers. I pray with them, encourage them, and ask for the same for me when I am struggling. But those last two… well… I’m not so good at that. Do I suffering willingly? Without fear? Do I suffer well? Knowing that my suffering was granted to me as a gift from God to make me stronger and grow my faith and character?
As I was studying this a few mornings ago, my son crawled up in my lap and in his sweet 2yr. old language he asked what I was doing. I told him I was reading the Bible and I was learning how God wants us to have a good attitude, even when things go bad. Then my heart was convicted so deeply I could barely hold back the tears. I told him, “Mommy doesn’t do that very well, does she?” He said no.
I don’t handle suffering well. The last five years have been marked by great suffering for me. When I got pregnant with my daughter, I was extremely sick and had Preeclampsia. Things turned out alright in the end, she was born with no complications. But I was severely depressed. Gavin was distant and mean, we were not communicating. I felt isolated and hopeless. This went on for two years. Savanna became my closest friend; she was the only person in the world I knew would not let me down. I knew she would love me no matter what. Then I got pregnant with my son and we soon found ourselves homeless. My husband had left his job as youth pastor to pursue another ministry plan that didn’t pan out. The economy was crashing and jobs were scarce. We ended up living with my mother-in-law and Samuel was brought home from the hospital to a bassinet in the closet of our one bedroom setup. Again, I was depressed, isolated, and without hope. Gavin was even more distant than ever, and our interactions were filled with bitterness and anger. This continued for another year.
Then in June 2010, I discovered my husband’s sexual sin. He’d been addicted to internet pornography for 16 years and had recently begun pursuing a relationship with another woman. I was devastated. I spent a lot of time crying. A lot of time yelling. And again, a lot of time depressed, isolated, and feeling hopeless. Thankfully, God changed something within me and I began to find healing. Gavin had repented and was now walking in freedom from sexual sin. He was pursuing me and comforting me, reassuring me at every turn. Our marriage was transformed and we found new love and enjoyment in each other. He became my prince (still is) and we began to treasure genuine intimacy-- physical, emotional, and spiritual—that we had never known. It was amazing. For about a year.
Then I got pregnant again. This time, I was not overjoyed. This time, I was terrified. I didn’t want the baby (which we soon found out was actually TWO babies) because I was afraid that all our hard work in our marriage would unravel once I started to gain weight and my hormones changed. I tried to cope with the shame of these thoughts and feelings but was struggling immensely. I didn’t realize that my suffering had just begun. I wasn’t expecting how sick this pregnancy would make me. By six weeks, I was diagnosed with Hyperemisis Gravidarum (a severe, debilitating form of pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting). By 13 weeks I had been hospitalized 6 times from extreme dehydration, requiring several bags of IV fluids and double doses of anti-nausea medications. This disorder left me almost completely bed-stricken. I was unable to eat, unable to cook or clean the house, unable to care for my children the way I needed (and wanted) to, and unable to serve my husband both outside and inside the bedroom. Once again I found myself depressed and isolated. Unless a woman has gone through the experience of HG, she can’t understand what I was going through. I felt judged by other women. I felt like I was letting my husband down. I felt like my children were going to hate me. My doctor finally got me on a regular medication that started to help with the HG, but I soon found myself having other incapacitating symptoms that were leaving me unable to stand. I was sent to the neurologist and I have since been put on anti-seizure medication because my doctor believes what I was experiencing could be epileptic. So here I sit, only 17 weeks pregnant (I’ve still got 4 months to go) and I’m alone in my bed. I’m so sick today that my children had to be taken to my father-in-law’s house. This morning I cried hysterically, holding them and trying to reassure them that I love them and I do miss playing with them. But sometimes I just can’t.
And as I lay here feeling sorry for myself, God reminded me of this passage I studied several days ago. He reminded me to let my conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ. He reminded me to suffer well. It doesn’t seem fair sometimes. Sometimes I think, “Can’t I just have a break, Lord?” And then I am reminded of Christ’s sufferings. How he willingly suffered so that I could be set free. I am reminded that there is no suffering that has come into my life that God didn’t allow to create in me a steadfast spirit; to mature my faith, grow my character, increase my compassion for others, and give me eternal rewards. So why waste it? I’ve wasted my suffering for many years, allowing myself to have private pity-parties, instead of allowing my suffering to draw me closer to the hand of God. To teach me and mold me. I can’t do that anymore. I have to learn to suffer well. It doesn’t mean that I won’t still be in pain (physically or emotionally) or that I won’t still be sick. It doesn’t mean that I won’t still struggle. But it does mean that I can keep a perspective of suffering for His sake. Learning to trust in the Lord to get me through each obstacle, whatever it may be. I need to, like I told my son, “…have a good attitude, even when things go bad.” John MacArthur explains that when Christians do not live in unity, do not strive together, and do not suffer well, “…they compromise the full biblical truth concerning the character, plan, and will of God. By doing so, they seriously weaken the credibility of the gospel…the world is understandably repulsed by their claims to love and serve God. And the name of Christ is sullied and dishonored.”
Lord let that not be me. I pray that, through my sufferings, I will learn to conduct myself worthy of Your gospel. Please give me the strength and endurance to suffer well.
Walking in Freedom,
Tags: suffering pain healing conduct jesus ""philippians 1:27-30"" ""hyperemesis gravidarum"" seizures
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