As Christians, we are called to relieve suffering. But we’re not called to relieve all suffering.
This is most certainly true when it comes to suffering and sanctification, including when it comes to becoming more relationally, emotionally, and sexually whole.
We live in an age that says the sign of a good relationship, romance, or sex is the pleasure it brings. If he/she makes you happy, be with that person. If the sex is good, enjoy it. If that’s your thing, who am I to judge?
Within this ideology, failure to relieve suffering is to be unloving.
But for Christ-followers, growing in godliness relationally, emotionally, and sexually will lead us through seasons of suffering. As we go, the spirit of the age will entice:
Everybody lusts. God doesn’t really expect you not to.
Why should you be single and lonely your entire life when everyone else is happy?* Marry an unbeliever, enter into a same-sex union, or remarry after divorce.
If you get out of this marriage, you’re life will be so much happier. Get out while you’re still young enough to find someone new.
Have sex. No one waits for marriage anymore.
Your wife (or husband) doesn’t need to know what you’ve been doing. It will only hurt them to find out.
When God commanded people to forgive, He certainly couldn’t have meant forgiving someone who has wounded you sexually. That’s just asking too much!
People will think you’re hateful if you maintain that marriage and sex are created by God only to be between a man and woman for life.
Just give in one more time to porn so you can sleep tonight. Tomorrow will be easier.
And the last enticement is, of course: To be a friend like Jesus is a friend means relieving others’ suffering.
Peter was such a friend to Jesus.
When Jesus told his disciples He was on His way to Jerusalem where He would “suffer many things” and “be killed” (Matthew 16:21), Peter pulled Jesus aside to assure Him he wouldn’t let it happen. Peter thought he was delivering good news to Jesus. He may even have expected Jesus to thank him for being such a good friend.
Instead, Jesus became stern with Peter: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23).
Twice more Peter would try to reduce or prevent Jesus’s suffering (see Matthew 26:33 and 26:51), but Jesus would not accept Peter’s “help.”
Don’t misunderstand. Jesus was not a glutton for punishment. He did not want to suffer and die. But He pressed through for the sake of resurrection, where sin, suffering and death would find their end.
Likewise for us and for those we seek to love.
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
We’re called to relieve suffering, but not all suffering. Instead, let’s follow Jesus together, taking up our crosses and also putting our shoulder under each other’s cross to help bear the burden.
To try to relieve all suffering is to try to remove the cross from Christianity. To remove the cross is to remove resurrection. Get behind us, Satan!
I’d love to hear from you. How can we help bear each others’ crosses? How has taking up your cross and following Jesus brought new life to you or those you love?
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18
*The common assumption today that singleness and celibacy inevitably lead to an unfulfilled and unhappy life can and should be challenged by the Church.
P.S. If you haven’t checked out the new Regeneration Ministries podcast, each 20-minute conversation addresses topics to help you and your loved ones on your journey toward sexual, emotional, and relational wholeness. You can listen anywhere you listen to podcasts, or by clicking here to find it at the bottom of our Resource page.