Knowing Jesus (Through Suffering)

By: Elena Abe

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”             Philippians 3:7-11

If I could summarize my junior year at OSU in one word, it would be suffering. By suffering I don’t mean putting in countless hours of studying and not seeing the grades I want, or struggling to stretch my money to put food on the table and pay for textbooks (although those are legitimate forms of suffering). For me, suffering has taken the form of God, gently but firmly, ripping apart my heart, uncovering the areas of my life that I had not (and have not) relinquished control to Him.

In the fall, God said no to a relationship I was in. Over and over again, I had to deny myself and my desires; sometimes feeling like I had to fall flat on my face in order to submit to the Lord. “When the will of God crosses the will of man, somebody has to die,” I read in Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity. Losing this relationship felt like a deep loss in my heart, but Paul reminded me in Philippians 3 that all things, even the good things, are loss for the sake of gaining Jesus (vs. 7-9).

Because in the end, what other choice did I have but to surrender to God? If He a) knows and b) wants what’s best for me, why wouldn’t I accept the things a) He gives me and b) guides me through? During those weeks it was a process of realizing what it meant to have Jesus as the first love of my life. He had to take someone away to show me how much I cared more for other people than for Him. I resolved to develop Jesus’ character in my heart, so that as a woman secure and satisfied in the Lord’s hand, I could freely and genuinely serve others, therefore serving my Lord.  With time, and desperately seeking God, I had a renewed love for Jesus, and am learning how to hold Him much more dear to my heart than even other people.

As 2012 began and winter term rolled along, God revealed another heart issue that I had to work out with Him—how God calls leaders and is the only one responsible for spiritually maturing people (read about my revelation here!). Looking back on those months, it was a heart-wrenching time of pleading with God to purify my heart of thoughts that were proud and asking for His love to fill my heart so I could genuinely give it to others. After those ten weeks, I had emerged ready to lead side-by-side with others, remembering that everything that resulted from my ministry was the Lord’s doing, not mine, and to make Jesus’ name known, not my own.

And so, even on this beautiful spring sunny day, there is still another struggle to be dealt with. Yes the Lord has brought me to a fairly “good” season, refreshed from all the difficult lessons I’ve learned in these past few months. But still, I hear His voice whispering, “Are you clinging to me more than anything else?” A hesitant, soft, “No, Jesus,” is my reply. As I look to the next four weeks, I don’t see all the fun I’ll be having as school winds down with my friends. Instead, I anticipate the sadness that will accumulate and weigh down my heart as the time to say goodbye comes, and it becomes the “last Epic meeting”, or the “last night at Dixon”, or the “last time I may ever see you!” So even though I will miss my friends that are leaving this year and want to hold tightly to this blissful time, I must cling to Jesus more. [Sidenote: In fact, Jesus said that our love for our mother and father (and fill-in-the-blank) needs to look like hate compared to our love for God (Luke 14:26).]

Jesus experienced the ultimate suffering. And if we claim to be followers of Him, it also means that we have a calling, and even a privilege, to suffer like Jesus did. Through all the times that I’ve struggled, whether it be physically, mentally, or spiritually, I have emerged looking a little bit more like Jesus. And that’s what struggles do. They “sandpaper” all the rough spots in our heart that we keep from experiencing His touch. They purify our hearts so we can look like His Son.

Paul wanted to know Christ so badly, even wanting to have fellowship with Him by “participating in His sufferings” (Philppians 3:11). And recently, my love for Jesus has become such a priority, that I too want to take part in His suffering, if it means I’ll look a little more like Jesus. So in the midst of my suffering, or even watching and guiding others during their times of struggle, it is an exciting time. The pain, the tears, the hardship areworth it, because we get to know Jesus intimately. “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…, that I may gain Christ and be found in him…” (Philippians 3:8,9). I want to know Christ, and to be found in Him.

 

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”            -1 Peter 5:10

 

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”           –2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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