10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
I had a conversation with a friend today about the Gospel, specifically that the power of God in Christian living and the suffering that comes with associating with Christ are two sides of the same coin, and inseparable.
Not to be that guy, but we as Americans live in true luxury. Compared to most of the world, we enjoy daily comforts that many do not even comprehend, from the dozens of pairs of socks in my drawer, to the laptop I am writing this on at this moment. Not just geographically, but historically too. Americans 100 years ago had a different standard of comfortable too. So are we to feel bad about the things we have been blessed with? I don't think so, but I do wonder if our luxuries haven't made it more complicated to "know the fellowship of His suffering". The expectation of comfort is far scarier to me than the availability of it.
While most Christians I know at least desire the power of God in their life, they hardly ever mention suffering. My friend made the point that you can not separate the two. In other words, the closer you press in to Christ and really learn Him, your life will be filled with more power and
suffering. With as much as we put into avoiding anything resembling suffering, it's hard to reconcile that we really want Christ more than an easy life.
Examples: A high-school girl wants God to do amazing things in her life, but not if she has to be single to learn to love Christ above all else. A college guy wants to have purity in His life, but not at the expense of living alone with internet access. A parent wants their child to grow up in the faith, but not if that means being responsible for the hours invested in spiritual guidance at home. All of these show our desperate attempts at separating power and suffering. It doesn't work.
This really drags the "health and wealth" pseudo-gospel through the ringer, and exposes it for what it is; a false teaching with disastrous dangers of painting God as a slave genie that has insufficient power to protect His kids from difficulty, or worse, a works-based merit system that leaves cancer patients, the unemployed, and pretty much anyone who experiences the winter seasons of life asking God where He has gone, since they must not have enough faith or their life would be...easy.
What further complicates things (or perhaps simplifies them) is that God is pretty clear in His word that hardship is a tool of His love and not a punishment in some twisted karmic payback for transgression. Hardship brings about suffering, and with it a deeper and more meaningful relationship to Christ. To know that suffering is an inescapable part of chasing Christ and actually desiring it...actually longing for that piece of the beautiful mess God brings us through as Paul did, is a leap I need Christ to teach me.
The point is, suffering in this life doesn't mean the system is broken, it means that it's working.