Written by Claire Fedele
When I was young, I memorized Acts 5:41.
“The apostles left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name.“
I’m really not sure why I chose this verse out of many; I guess something about just struck me.
Rejoicing for being someone who is worthy of suffering.
It was a compelling, baffling notion: to be worthy of suffering for the Lord.
Even as I memorized the verse, I could only relate to it through the experiences of others. I had never faced anything close to what the apostles had.
As time went on, my eyes were opened to more suffering in the world as I worked among the poor in the US and abroad. Injustice, persecution, and systems that keep people down seemed to exist everywhere.
But it wasn’t until God actually caused me to suffer as I ministered to others that I started to see more clearly.
By being mugged, began to identify with people with albinism who live under the constant threat of attack.
By being falsely accused and threatened, I began to see how doing the right thing doesn’t prevent injustice from prevailing.
By being forced from the place where I’d served for almost four years, I saw how pride can lead to the extreme suffering of groups of innocent people.
The experience of suffering for doing what God had asked me to do not only opened my eyes, but caused me to understand greater truths.
I began to more deeply identify with the oppressed, becoming more equipped to effectively take up the cause of the poor and the needy (Jeremiah 22:16).
I began to identify with God’s heart for those who suffer, as well as His extreme suffering on this earth in dying for me.
And, I began to understand how the apostles could come out of suffering rejoicing. Although no one enjoys suffering, knowing that I had been able to do it for the Lord made it worthwhile. And the notion that I could proclaim- through my very act of suffering- that He is worthy of anything that I go through, is sure a reason to rejoice.
There is so much suffering in the world. Each person has a unique way in which they are to address it or to work for change.
But as we all do, let’s not shy away from entering into the suffering. In fact, let’s count it as joy if we are doing so for the Lord. Because as we do so, He will meet us there, open our eyes, change our hearts, and show us great and unsearchable things (Jer. 33:3) that we may have never known otherwise.
I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering.
Though You Slay Me, Shane and Shane
“Joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God.”
Janet Erskine Stuart
“The test of our spirituality comes when we come up against injustice and meanness and ingratitude and turmoil, all of which have the tendency to make us spiritual sluggards. We want to use prayer and Bible reading for the purpose of retirement. We utilize God for the sake of getting peace and joy, that is, we do not want to realize Jesus Christ, but only our enjoyment of him. This is the first step in the wrong direction. All these are effects and we try to make them causes.”
My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers