Philippians 1:29-30 ESV, “29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
Paul is reminding those in Philippi that he intimately knows suffering and embraces his time in jail because it is fruitful for spreading the gospel. In Philippians 1:29-30, he is encouraging the Philippians and modern-day readers of his letter to persevere through suffering to bring glory to the Lord Jesus.
Have you ever considered your suffering as a privilege for God to use your life as a testimony for him? Think about how much more you seek him when your tank is on empty compared to when things are going well in your life.
No stranger to suffering, Helen Keller stated, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” She closely reflects Paul’s message to the Romans in his letter, where he wrote just a few years before his imprisonment as well as his letter to the Philippians. In Romans 5:3-5 Paul explains, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (ESV)”
Suffering may draw our attention inward to consume our thoughts, play scenarios in our head, overthink words said to us or what we’ve said to others. Suffering may create a dissonance from God if there isn’t acceptance of suffering. Suffering could make someone embarrassed or ashamed of how they feel about their suffering, which could prohibit community that Christians require for a healthy spiritual life.
Our enemy uses shame to make us feel afraid of God’s wrath, embarrassed to seek help, or feel skeptical of God’s love. Paul urges us not to focus on suffering’s effect on us, but to let go of our emotional strongholds and wear our suffering as a badge of honor for God. When we suffer, we are vulnerable and likely to act on our emotions more than using the Spirit to guide us. Paul encourages readers to put their thoughts and emotions created from suffering into their place, which is to acknowledge them and recognize they have significance but should not be the driving factor in one’s actions. In doing so, we keep the emotions and thoughts in balance while God remains as our focus to help navigate through the season of suffering.
Suffering takes many forms. Suffering may take the form of a need for physical healing or as financial assistance from illness draining the bank account. Suffering could look like being faithful to God and focusing solely on him as you wait for him to act in your life. Suffering has a plethora of forms and even more, emotions to accompany the experience. However, when you suffer, please understand you are in good company. During such seasons, please remember Jesus is for you, not against you. Remind yourself during seasons of suffering the faithful character of God and to entrust yourself to Him.
Laura Hancock lives in Newport News, VA and serves at Coastal Community Church in Yorktown, VA. She teaches U.S. History to 7th graders at Tabb Middle School. She holds a master’s degree in Church Ministry and Discipleship from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a master’s in Secondary Education. She shares her life with her husband, Travis, and their dog, Buddy.