The Fellowship of Suffering

While the experience of the power of Christ's resurrection is the beginning of our knowledge of Christ and the start of our Christian life, it certainly is not the end. The Christian life is not simply something done for us and given to us by Christ, it is something also which we give to, and do with, Him. It begins to dawn upon man who has felt the power of Christ's resurrection that there is a deeper and more sacred and more intimate experience into which he may enter---he may share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings.

'The fellowship of'---the having in common---'His sufferings'! In what way can the sufferings of our Lord be common to us and be shared by us? Of course, into out Lord's atoning sacrifice we may not enter. But there are certain aspects of our Lord's sorrows which we may share. In fact, we only really become Christians as we do share them.

There is the suffering Christ endured on account of sin. He bore the burden of it on His soul. He was moved to the depths of His soul for the victims and slaves of it. 'When he beheld the city, he wept over it'---over its indifference, irreligion, wickedness and impending doom. And we simply do not know Christ unless we enter the fellowship of His sufferings in this respect, unless we feel sin and shame of the world as a burden on our souls. 'I could wish myself accursed for my brethren according to the flesh,' said St. Paul. The sin and rebellion of the Jews burdened and haunted him. 'Who is weak,' he cries in another place, 'and I am not weak?' He suffered, as Christ suffered, at the thought of the wandering, ignorant, sinning millions of the world. We are quick to sympathize with physical suffering and loss. but what about the multitudes who are losing their souls.

What else can we share, if our Savior and we are to have 'all things in common'? We cannot be long with the Lord without noting how deeply He suffered with the suffering of others. Other folk's sorrows He made His own, and He drank deeply of everybody's bitter cup. Have we entered into the fellowship of those sufferings? Someone may possibly reply, "I've got enough of my own!' So we have; but, if we made other people's sorrows our own as well, the miracle would happen which has been wrought in innumerable lives, the double load would be more tolerable than either of the single loads, and the burden would become light. At any rate, when we add the fire of another man's suffering to our own, there is One in the fire 'Like unto the Son of Man,' and in that strong controlling Presence 'the fire shall not kindle upon thee to destroy.' And at any rate, again, when we sorrow with another's sorrow we are drinking the cup of the Lord. and we enter into 'the fellowship of his sufferings.'

And, again, we can enter into the fellowship of our Lord's sufferings by the complete surrender of ourselves to the service of our fellow-men. Our Lord served other people to the point of physical weakness and exhaustion, and even unto death. Our service too frequently ends where suffering begins. We stop short of the promise of fertility. 'The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.' Our work begins to tell when the workman is content to suffer. But is it not true that for many of us our service ends just when we reach the bitter cup? 'Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink of/' No, we are not able, and when our work and service become bitter we give them up. 'From that day'---Calvary in sight---'many of his disciples turned back, and walked no more with him.'

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha