Part III of Our Journey Through Union with Christ

150 150 Ronny Mannebonia

Finding Hope and Glory in Suffering

Introduction: The Inescapable Reality of Suffering

In my preaching class, we’re taught to highlight the Bible’s relevance to our audience. Yet, for this third installment of our series on the principle of suffering, there’s no need to draw such connections artificially. From the moment of the Fall, suffering has been an indelible part of our existence, touching every life in various ways. It’s crucial to understand that our suffering is a direct consequence of sin, even if it is not our own. As we peel back the layers of our faith, we find at its core a truth that binds us to Christ not only in His death, life, and resurrection but in His suffering.

The Union with Christ in Suffering

When Jesus asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4), He unveiled the profound union between Himself and His church. This verse, Acts 9:4, has become precious for me, a reminder that I am not alone in my own trials and sufferings—Christ is with me, experiencing my pain and tears.

Our union with Christ means not only that He shares in our suffering, but we share in His—John 15:18 like Master, like servant. Suffering identifies us with Christ. And His mission becomes our mission, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21).

To be part of His mission often involves suffering. If we were of the world, the world would love us as its own John 15:19. And since we are not of the world, we face opposition. It’s worth pondering that sometimes the absence of suffering in our lives is a sign of conformity to the world’s ways. Recognizing our shared sufferings with Christ naturally leads us to a pivotal question: how do we then embrace these trials with a sense of hope?

Hope in the Midst of Pain

We hold onto hope as we face suffering, recognizing it as crucial to following Christ. Suffering deepens our spiritual maturity and brings us closer to God, ensuring no pain or hardship is wasted.

When I first embraced salvation, my family turned away, offering no words of welcome or celebration. Friends distanced themselves, viewing my choice as folly. It was in this isolation I understood I wasn’t yet where I truly belonged, with Jesus. God taught me a great lesson through that experience: It’s in the emptiness of having nothing that you discover Jesus is everything. Every trial is an opportunity to be conformed more to the image of Christ.

With hope as our anchor, we now explore how our present sufferings are not merely challenges to endure but pathways leading us to future glory beyond comparison.

Shared Sufferings, Shared Glory

Paul’s letters often juxtapose suffering with glory, emphasizing that one precedes the other.

Romans 8:17 – “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

2 Corinthians 4:17 – “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,”

Other verses include Rom 5: 2–4, Romans 8:18, Col 1:24–27, 1 Peter 5:10, etc.

This pattern, suffering then glory, mirrors the journey of Jesus Himself—a “man of sorrows” who entered into glory through the cross. Understanding suffering as a pathway to glory, we are compelled to confront our trials with an awareness of God’s unfailing presence and love, which sustains us through every trial.

Confronting Our Sufferings with God’s Unfailing Presence and Love

When facing suffering, there is a temptation to question God’s love. Does God really love me? If He does, then why am I going through this? The presence of suffering does not mean the absence of His presence or love.

God’s Presence in Our Pain: In ancient Hebrew writing, they didn’t have tools like italics or bold text to highlight something important. Instead, they used a structure called a chiasm–– arranging ideas in a specific sequence to spotlight the central message. Imagine a chicken sandwich—the most crucial part isn’t the bread, but what’s in the middle: chicken.

In Psalm 23, that central, crucial part is “You are with me,” capturing the essence of David’s message about God’s presence amidst suffering and guidance through every trial and tribulation.

The Unbreakable Bond of Christ’s Love: In Romans 8, Paul poses a rhetorical question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” knowing about the suffering Roman Christians were under, “Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword” (Romans 8:35). But, notice he’s not asking if our love for Christ can handle the heat. He’s asking if anything out there—any hardship or trial we face—can cut us off from Christ’s love for us. Spoiler: The answer’s a resounding No.

God’s presence and love is the greatest prize for people who suffer. His presence, comfort, and empathy mean much more in the moment of sadness than all the intellectual answers we can suggest. As we’ve explored suffering, our union with Christ, and the hope that guides us, let’s bring together our insights to understand how they strengthen our faith.

Concluding Reflections: Walking Together in the Light of Easter Hope

Reflecting on the nature of suffering and God’s understanding of it, one might wonder, “What does God truly know about suffering?” Living in the realm of eternal peace and joy, how can He grasp the depth of grief, fear, or suffering that part of our earthly existence?

Yet, this question finds its answer in the raw, anguished cry from the cross: “Elahi Elahi Lama Sabachitani,” which translates to “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” This moment captures the depth of God’s empathy and understanding of human suffering. It is a powerful testament that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, has not only observed our suffering from a distance but also lived through its ultimate form. This act of God, becoming man and bearing the cross, shows us that He is intimately connected to every facet of human suffering.

To my church family, whether you are going through trials or not, know this: your suffering is seen, known, and shared by a Savior who loves you deeply. Let the reality of “Christ in us” be your strength, your comfort, and your hope. As we approach Easter, the ultimate symbol of suffering transformed into victory, let’s hold tightly to the hope of resurrection. Our union with Christ means that we, too, can look beyond our present sufferings to the glory that awaits us. Let’s walk this path together drawing near to God, where one day He will wipe away every tear, and His joy will be ours for eternity.

Blessings, 
Pastor Ronny

Author

Ronny Mannebonia

All stories by: Ronny Mannebonia