What Does It Mean to Share in Christ’s Sufferings?

Updated Feb 05, 2019
What Does It Mean to Share in Christ’s Sufferings?

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

Presently I'm reading through Romans with a young college girl I mentor. She is a new believer, and when we came to Romans 5:3-5 she began to have questions about suffering. I assured her that these are not questions that only new believers wrestle with. The most seasoned and mature Christians struggle with understanding the purpose of suffering and God's role in it.

As I talked with her I explained that for me, my suffering and the suffering I see in the world brings hope. She, of course, looked at me like my mental health was compromised. Then I explained.

"...for me, my suffering and the suffering I see in the world brings hope."

"...for me, my suffering and the suffering I see in the world brings hope."

I think in our Western culture we are surprised at the troubles in our lives because we live in a place of abundance with choices and control over the details of our lives. This makes it hard for us to accept trouble as normal and even good. However, in other parts of the world, trouble is tangible and daily. People may not see it as good, however, it is normal.

Jesus made it clear that "in this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). There are no surprises in this. No matter where you live, what culture you're a part of, and whether you are a Christian or not, this verse applies to all humankind. Everyone will have trouble. Everyone will suffer.

However, not everyone will share in Christ's sufferings. There is a difference between simply suffering and sharing in Christ's sufferings. Sharing in Christ's sufferings gives me hope because this world is not the end. For someone who does not share in Christ's sufferings, there is no hope because when their life of earth ends they are separated from God eternally. However, for those of us who share in Christ's sufferings as His disciples, we have an eternal hope that after our earthly lives end, we'll be with Jesus forever in heaven. This is good news.

So what does it mean to share in Christ's sufferings? How do we do this?

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To Share in the Purpose of Suffering

To Share in the Purpose of Suffering

Jesus' suffering was not in vain. There was a well-planned purpose, and God knew that purpose couldn't be fulfilled any other way. The purpose was to bring redemption to the world. The only thing that would atone for peoples’ sin was for God himself to come to earth and offer Himself as a perfect sacrifice for all of sin – past, present, and future.

Today we share in Christ's sufferings by focusing on the purpose, not the pain. As I've already mentioned, suffering is inevitable because we live in a fallen world (John 16:33). However, because of Christ's death on the cross, all our sufferings have an eternal purpose. He makes all suffering good. "For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

When we share in Christ's sufferings, we are sharing in its purpose to give people hope that there is redemption through Jesus Christ.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jack Sharp

"...because of Christ's death on the cross, all of our sufferings have an eternal purpose."

"...because of Christ's death on the cross, all of our sufferings have an eternal purpose."

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." (1 Peter 1:3-6)

As we mature, we begin to ask the questions, "What is the purpose of my suffering? How is God going to use it for good?" We most likely will never know the answers to these questions, but asking them allows us to share in God's bigger plan.

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To Share in the Power of Suffering

To Share in the Power of Suffering

When we read the story of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, it's easy to adopt the attitude that “He is Jesus and we are not, so of course He's able to endure suffering.” However, we must remember that what sustained Jesus was God's power upon Him. He relied on His heavenly Father to give Him what He needed.

Another example is Jesus' resurrection. In His power Jesus rose from the dead. In the same way, when we share in Christ's sufferings, we experience His power to raise us from our pain. Read the following passage from Philippians 3.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:7-11)

In this passage, Paul tells us that knowing Christ in His suffering is worth the pain He experienced because it allowed Him to experience Jesus' power - "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection." In our suffering, we see the magnitude of Jesus. There is supernatural power to overcome our pain, a power that can only come from our Savior.

"In our suffering, we see the magnitude of Jesus."

"In our suffering, we see the magnitude of Jesus."

It's important to remember that this power is not given before it is needed. When we look ahead and think of all the suffering we will experience in our lives, it's easy to become fearful. However, the power discussed in 2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me,' My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me," is given in the midst of weakness. Just like Jesus' power to overcome Satan and His power to endure the Cross was available to Him in those moments of suffering. 

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To Share in the Identity of Christ

To Share in the Identity of Christ

Sharing in Christ's sufferings allows us to share in His identity. It makes us more like Jesus. We become partners with Him, and we partake in His glory.

"Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world." (1 Peter 4:12-13)

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked God if there was any other way. He asked if God could spare Him the suffering He was about to endure. Then, Jesus took up His cross. He said, "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). We, too, must deny ourselves and take up our Cross - "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'" (Matthew 16:24).

Taking up our Cross looks different for everyone. Sometimes it's enduring with grace a lifelong ailment or trial. Sometimes it's doing what you don't want to do, but what you know God wants you to do. Our "Crosses" in life are what make us more like Jesus. By sharing in Christ's sufferings through taking up our Crosses, we become sanctified in His likeness. This likeness is what prepares us for heaven.

Sharing in Christ's sufferings gives us hope, and hope gives us peace. This is what sustains our minds in this world of tribulation. And this is what leads us to say, "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:3-5). 

Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin and history of specific verses within Scripture context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.

"Be Still and Know that I Am God"
"Pray Without Ceasing" 
"Fearfully and Wonderfully Made"
"Faith Without Works is Dead"
"Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart"
"All Things Work Together for Good"
"Be Strong and Courageous" 


Originally published Tuesday, 05 February 2019.