During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears…and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered. (Hebrews 5:7-8)
If Jesus needed to ‘learn obedience’ from what He suffered, how much more do we need to learn obedience from our sufferings? If we want to become like Him in every way, then we must enter His school of obedience through suffering. Suffering is not something to be avoided, but something to be embraced as God gives us grace to learn through it. Jesus calls us into an active life of developing discipleship, not apathetic avoidance. His way is the way of the Cross, not the way of the couch.
At one point, when many were following Him, Jesus said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). This is our daily challenge: to take up our cross and follow Jesus in obedient suffering.
Paul challenged his young protegé, Timothy, in a similar way: “Join with me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8); and later: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
This is the life of discipleship. It is a life shaped by the cross of Christ. When we follow the will of the Father, we may suffer at the hands of friends, family, co-workers, classmates, children, parents, or the world in general. But this suffering can shape us – in our hearts, minds, and souls – to become more like Christ who was perfect in His obedience to the Father.
Our cross-shaped calling, however, is not without hope. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He has won the struggle and paved the way for us to abundant life with God. He is the victor and we walk in His way.
Our cross-shaped calling is not without a greater end. “I consider that our present sufferings, ” said Paul, ” are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). And so, we suffer, but not without a greater glory to come. God shapes His glory into us day by day as we continue in the way of the Cross.
Father, may we learn, like Christ did, true obedience to the You by that which we suffer. Help us to daily take up our cross for You.