"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." ~ Philippians 3:7-11
As I'm studying through the book of Philippians, I've found myself standing squarely in the face of this passage. I knew it was coming. It's a passage that has somehow found its way into my reading a lot lately and I've got to be honest... I haven't been thrilled about it. It's one that at first I felt very akin to. Truly, as I have gone through the processes that naturally happen when you receive a major diagnosis like mine, I have learned to count a lot of things as loss and I have learned to desire knowing Christ all the more. At the end of the day, there's not really much more to hold onto.
Yet, I now find myself wincing at this once comforting passage. As I've said so many times before, treatment is a long and difficult process. There is no getting out of it. You just have to bear down and get through the many days of sickness, pain, and misery. I thought that having gone through these trials these past months would have made me love this passage all the more as I cling to my Savior to get me through. Not so.... Instead, as I wade through the weeks and months, I am coming to realize something about myself - about many Christians - that I'm not so fond of.
You see, often I have thrown these words around... "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings," but do I really? I'm fast coming to a place where I'm realizing that I want to know Christ, but I really don't want to know his suffering. Why would I? Sure, I want to know Jesus more and more. Sure, I want to be close to him and as much like him as I can be... but at what cost? What price am I really willing to pay to be like my Savior? I'm afraid I'm learning that my cost is a lot cheaper than I thought it was. It seems the longer I go in treatment, the less I want to go through it... even if it means that I forfeit the lessons God has planned for me to learn. I'm just tired of the struggle.
Don't get me wrong - I do want to know Jesus and be like him, but in all honesty, I'm realizing that I still want life to be easy. I don't want to face hardship or pain - not at all! There's one problem with this, though... one nagging question: Can I ever truly know him or be like him without suffering? I don't think so.
So here I sit... realizing once again that my heart is failing and my faith is weak. So often I throw around Scripture quotations and boast of my great desires to make a difference in this world for the Lord. So often, however, I'm not even thinking of what my words really mean. So often, I don't think of the cost. So often, I forget the tremendous price my Savior was willing to pay for me and I make promises to him that are no more lasting than the air on which they're breathed... promises that in the end, I may never be willing to actually keep. In the end, it's all just "Christianese." It sounds good, but it really doesn't mean a whole lot.
I think a lot of us do that. We talk big, but when we're really pressed with hardship, we crack and we fold. When things get rough, we want out. I think there are a lot of people out there just like me.... If we're really honest with ourselves, we'd have to admit that we want the blessings of the Lord, but we want things to be easy, too. What a shame! How will we see real transformation in our lives? How will we ever make a difference for the Lord if we're not willing to suffer in some way as our Messiah did for us? It seems there is no other way. The ways of the Lord are backwards to this world. Death brings life, trials bring growth, and suffering brings joy....
At least, that's what he's promised us. For those of us who go through the long nights of trials and tribulations, we are offered a tremendous hope in the Lord. It's not necessarily the hope of getting out of the difficulty immediately. It's the promise of deep joy and lasting growth for the one who perseveres (James 1:2-3; 12). I so long to be that person.... May I not fail under this long test! I don't want my promises to the Lord to be empty words. I want my life to mirror his and make a difference for him! So, I reconsider and realign my thinking (yet once again)...