The Testimony of Suffering

I watched Braveheart tonight for the first time in a while. God used it to reveal to me something I hadn’t realized before. That suffering is the absolute proof of the severity of a cause or truth. What I mean by this is that when someone endures the most extreme conditions of suffering, at that moment they become the most visible evidence that what they are suffering for is worthwhile. Through your pain, people will see the seriousness of the cause that you are are suffering for. In the case of William Wallace this cause was Freedom. And it wasn’t until he endured agonizing physical torture that his people realized the importance of that Freedom.

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Before Wallace was killed, his Scottish countrymen chose to simply live with the fact that they were being persecuted, pillaged, raped and murdered by the ruling English. To them, freedom wasn’t worth the pain that would come to their own skin if they fought back. But in Wallace they soon realized something different. They realized that freedom from persecution was so incredibly important that some people would endure the most excruciating treatment on earth before they would deny this importance. All Wallace had to do was tell one tiny lie, and he would be spared. Just simply fibbing about the fact that in his heart freedom was the most important thing in the world would’ve allowed him to be rid of his agony. But it wasn’t worth it.

Denying that freedom is the most valuable thing in this world was not worth ending the most intense pain Wallace ever felt in his life.

Now it’s not hard to see the parallel between this story and the life of Christ. But my eyes were opened tonight to the importance of the suffering Jesus went through before His death. The fact is, being willing to just die for something doesn’t carry as much weight as being willing to suffer for something…especially for the Christian. Just because someone puts a bullet in your head doesn’t automatically make you a martyr. What creates power in the story of a martyr is the breadth of pain that person is willing to endure before giving in. The amount of endurance he/she carries without yelling “uncle” is what speaks testimony to the importance of their cause. The fact is, Jesus experienced both mental and physical suffering to arguably the deepest extremes humanly possible before his death. On the night before his crucifixion, He was so distraught with fear and grief that he sweated blood.  And before being nailed to the cross, His flesh was so torn that He was barely recognizable.

I believe that physical bodily torture is the most extreme of pains that exist on this earth. Because we are made in God’s image, when someone physically harms another person, they are literally ripping apart the image of God. Thinking about this tonight convicted me that my tolerance level for any kind of physical suffering is drastically minute. I would most likely be one of the first to give in if having to endure pain for the cause of Christ. I can barely jog a quarter-mile before having to stop for a breather. And because I’m also really claustrophobic, if someone locks me in a small box or a straight jacket for more than 20 seconds then it’s over. For me that’s what suffering is and I just pray that if one day I must face such persecution that God would sustain me through it.

For the Christian, death is not so much an example of faithfulness as it is the reward. True suffering, though different for everyone, is the ultimate testimony to the value of the Gospel in your life. This is why Paul counted it a pleasure to suffer for the sake of Christ, because there’s no greater display of the importance of the Gospel than enduring the most excruciating circumstances for believing it. Lord please change my attitude on this and give me long-lasting endurance to suffer for the sake of your Truth.