Suffering must be part of normal Christian living. Any theology or type of Christianity that teaches that Christians should live the victorious life and not suffer is at best unbiblical and at worst extremely dangerous.
The Bible teaches that God is sovereign over all of life and at times appoints suffering in the lives of his people.
The Apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering. He saw suffering as a normal part of Christian living, in fact, he saw suffering as a gift from God. He wrote in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him”. Suffering is a gift that God gives to those found worthy enough to suffer “on behalf of Christ”.
Why would God grant us to suffer on behalf of Christ? Paul gives the answer in Colossians 1:24 which says, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Paul (who we know suffered all kinds of hardships) says he makes up in his own body through suffering what is lacking in Christ’s suffering and death. What is lacking? Surely not the atoning value of Christ’s death! Paul has just said in v20 that through his death on the cross Jesus reconciled all things to himself. Colossians 2:20 tells us that through the cross Jesus cancelled all the charges written against us. Colossians 2:15 says that through the cross Jesus triumphed over evil powers. The cross of Jesus does not lack in atoning power!
What is lacking is that many people don’t read the Bible and don’t know Jesus. They don’t see or know about the meaning or power or atoning value of Christ’s afflictions. What’s lacking in Jesus’ sufferings is their “known-ness”, their “proximity”, their “know-ability” to your friends. Your friends can’t see Jesus, but they can see you. When you, as a follower of Jesus, persevere in trusting Jesus in the midst of suffering and hardship, Jesus is made more famous. When you refuse to stop loving Jesus in the midst of tough times, Jesus is put on display and the power of his atoning death is “seen”.
Recently someone in our church experienced a massive trial: a brain tumour. This person’s immovable trust in Jesus despite tough circumstances made Jesus’ name more famous to us Christians and her non-Christian friends.