Perhaps you would rather read about love, joy, and peace, but suffering is also part of the call of the Gospel. In a sense, it is actually the highest form of love, for if one can have a profound peace and even joy in the midst of suffering, then one’s love has been purified of all self-interest, superficiality, and desire for emotional fulfillment. The price you’re willing to pay is the measure of the depth of your love.
In case you’re not convinced that suffering is really part of the call of the Gospel (have you ever heard people say that Jesus suffered so that we don’t have to?), let’s look at a few examples. “One is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly… For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1Peter -21). Evidently, then, Jesus suffered not so that we don’t have to, but as an example that we should follow! Those who love the Lord and understand something of the mystery of the Cross even desire to share in his sufferings, which both manifested his everlasting love and brought salvation to the world. “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians -11).
OK, enough biblical support. We have simply to accept that taking up one’s cross and following Jesus is essential to the meaning and practice of the Gospel. That cross may come in various forms—usually unexpected ones—but come it will, for no servant is greater than his master. We can’t eliminate freely-accepted suffering from the elements of genuine Christian life. If the way Jesus chose to manifest his love for us was “obedience unto death, death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8), then sacrificial love must be the best way there is. So when He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him, He’s asking for an expression of love and trust that is perhaps beyond unaided human ability, but which is possible with the grace He richly bestows upon us. Nothing less than a total self-offering was Jesus’ gift to us, and He asks nothing less than that in return. It will cost us, make no mistake. But He also promises that sorrow will turn to joy (John ).
So make sure you integrate suffering into the joy and peace and the other elements of the call of the Gospel. The saints, the mystics, those who were most in love with the Lord, all endured profound (and often prolonged) sufferings for his sake. But because they loved Him and knew his love for them, they could easily say with