“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
BECAUSE OF CHRIST’S TRIUMPHANT RESURRECTION, IT IS POSSIBLE FOR US TO EMBRACE OUR OWN SUFFERING WITH ACCEPTANCE AND COURAGE. To those who have made the choice to be faithful to Him, Christ is able to say, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.” This freedom is truly a great gift.
Similar admonitions to courage, often put in the form of a command, are found on many pages of Scripture. For example, God said to Israel, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). And the exhortation to courage is always grounded in the sovereign greatness of God. He is greater than any earthly thing that may threaten to overthrow us. “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11).
There is, however, a tendency for us to react with shame when we read in the Scriptures what our attitude toward suffering should be. We know that we have on many occasions been afraid to suffer, and we feel ashamed and frustrated that our confidence in God is not any stronger than it is. What can help us? One suggestion is to think in terms of “releasing” our fears. Rather than seeing courage as a burden we must pick up and carry, we can think of fear as a burden we’re free to lay down. We don’t have to be held back by fear. We can let go of the weight of anxiety we’ve dragged around with us for all these years.
Christ having conquered the cause of our suffering, we can be strengthened, rather than broken, by whatever we suffer. He did not die to prevent us from being hurt, but to free us from fear, tasting death that He might “release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15). So we need not hesitate to drink any cup that life sets before us. We have better things to do than to be constantly running away from pain.
“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt” (Thomas Merton).