Reflections

How Willing Are You to Suffer?

By January 22, 2020 No Comments

How willing are you to suffer?  The answer to that question says something about what kind of disciple you are. This is because discipleship, by definition, carries with it elements of suffering. 

The words discipline and disciple come from a Latin root that means student .  At the core of both of those words is the idea of learning.  Learning often comes through the dedicated suffering of the learner.  When a parent disciplines a child, she is helping him learn good behavior, while she, at the same time, is learning how to be patient. The child suffers in that process, as does the parent. When a graduate student stays up late, skips parties, and studies when she doesn’t want to, she is learning, and earning the privileges of her discipline. Interestingly, both the parent and the graduate student may hate the experience of their sufferings, but their desires for their goals are greater than their hatred for their pains and displeasures. They do not wish to suffer, but they are willing to do so. When a Christian denies himself so that he can become more like Christ, he is suffering with the goal of transformation. This is why Paul likens discipline to striking a blow against his body (1 Corinthians 9:27 NIV), or putting his body under subjection (KJV). 

Because fasting is a discipline, these things are true of it as well.  Fasting produces both growth and learning from the process of suffering.  This process also demonstrates, in part, how serious you are at pursuing a stronger relationship with God. When you fast, you are denying yourself the pleasure of food, and welcoming the expected pangs so that you can spend that time with God.  You are also demonstrating in that moment that communion with God is more important than food. You are striking a blow to your body, and subjecting it to a greater purpose. Just like the parent, and the graduate student, the person who fasts has a desire to strengthen his relationship with God that is greater than his hatred for pain and inconvenience. His desire to learn what God wants of him, and to achieve a greater level of intimacy, supersedes his desire to taste the joys of food, or to stave off the grumblings of his stomach. The person who does this with the right intent, and in the right way, shows that his God is not his belly, and that his home is in Heaven (Philippians 3:19-21).  Of course, not every person can fast from food. People with diabetes, for instance. Fasting isn’t meant to be a death sentence, or an avenue for illness. But everyone, can fast from something that is ordinarily important to them. Suffering toward a goal is noble, and enlivens growth. How willing you are to suffer says much about how willing you are to grow.

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