the fellowship of His suffering

by Patti Cepin

There is another aspect of pain that I have just begun to wrap my heart, mind, and soul around. To the degree that I have begun to understand the significance of this aspect of pain, I invite you to come with me as we explore. I cannot take you there, and yet I perceive that somehow I have begun the journey without knowing it.

The door opened to me when I was counseling a couple in a week-long intensive program. One morning in my time alone with Jesus I was struck by the words used about Him in His Garden experience. Luke said of him, “being in agony of mind.” Matthew says, “He began to be grieved and distressed, deeply depressed. ‘My soul is deeply grieved, very sad. I am almost dying of sorrow.’” Mark says He was “struck with terror and amazement” and “deeply troubled” and “depressed.” In the King James it is rendered: “He saith unto them, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death….’”

As we counseled that morning we were struck with how much God was using my client’s pain. The pain was drawing my client into fellowship with God. I was at once reminded of Philippians 3:10 in the Amplified Bible:

For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, and that I may in that same way come to know the power out-flowing from His resurrection which it exerts over believers, and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness even to His death.

How quickly I had slipped by those words in the past. This is my life verse. How could I have missed the significance of those words, “that I may know Him…that I may so share His sufferings”?

What I long for is fellowship with Him. What I long for is intimacy with Him. My determined purpose is to know Him! Then why had I not seen before that if I were to have what my heart longs for I must taste His suffering? I must suffer. My Lord suffered in many different ways. Not just on the cross, but in the everyday ways that I suffer. I want to be drawn into the intimacy of that--of what He knew and felt. Why had I so kicked against pain and sorrow before? Here was my door to His heart. I do not invite casual friends into my inner life. I do invite a few intimate fellow travelers in. And here I am being invited into the very heart of the living God, the God of Hosea 11. How could I resist, how could I not run with all that is in me into His arms. Like Paul I cry, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).

But wait! I do not run, because this path leads right into the fire--right through the flood--right into the arms of pain. So that is where He is!

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Oh Lord, my heart shrinks back from suffering, demanding another road. So often I miss You because I do not want to walk into the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I want to walk with You in the joy-filled places, the spiritually high places. But You call me to the low places for that is where You walked.

For consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself lest you be wearied and faint in your minds. (Hebrews 12:3)