Monday, 13 August 2012

To suffer faithfully

We were watching a bit of the Olympics the other night, and one of the commentators who was talking about the men's 50km walk made a statement that stood out to Dave and me. He was commenting on the Russian walker who was in the lead at the time (a balding thirty-two-year-old called Sergey Kirdyapkin) and predicting that he would stay out in front of his younger rivals and go on to win the race. The reason why, he explained, was that he knew Kirdyapkin was used to pain - he was practised in the art of suffering.

It struck me as an apt illustration for the Christian race. While the emphasis is not so much  on winning but on finishing, a big part of it - like the race walk - is perseverance and being prepared to suffer when the time comes. We sometimes tend to focus on those aspects of the Christian life (spontaneity, starry-eyed-ness, passionate intensity...) in which the younger seem to have an advantage over the older, but there are a bunch of other aspects in which the very experiences that knock some of the shine off our youthful naivety are exactly the things that equip us to be better at enduring.

Eric Metaxas writes that twelve years before his own imprisonment and death, Dietrich Bonhoeffer somehow could see that at some point in the road ahead, "he would be able to do nothing more than suffer faithfully in his cell, praising God as he did so, thanking him for the high privilege of being counted worthy to do so":

Simply suffering - that is what will be needed then- not parries, blows or thrusts such as may still be possible or admissible in the preliminary fight; the real struggle that perhaps lies ahead must simply be to suffer faithfully. (p.196)

The parries, blows and thrusts of the preliminary rounds may look mighty impressive, and of course they too have a role to play in giving glory to God. But on the path toward our death and resurrection, most of us will end up reaching a place where the main event is something much simpler and harder: "suffer[ing] faithfully". And all the small inconveniences and irritations and hardships along the way are training for that day!

5 comments:

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks Nic, I love the statement 'practised in the art of suffering'. Although it isn't something I'm seeking! I was impressed by the Russian 'walker' too.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said and very encouraging. Thanks Nic for posting this!

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

The Olympic competitors have shown us great examples of perseverance. Great post on suffering faithfully!

Jean said...

Such an encouraging post Nic; good to see it on The Briefing and Challies.

Nicole said...



Tina, you are right - lots of examples of perseverance.

and thanks Jean (and anon!).