Philippians 3:10 says that one way we get to know Christ is that we become a partner in suffering. I know for myself, I REALLY can’t stand pain and suffering! It is so hard to focus on those around you when you are in the midst of a difficult trial. So, how is it even possible to get to know others in the midst of suffering?
I can say that I now have firsthand experience in witnessing this amazing thing that happens. Those of us who spend weekend after weekend visiting our husbands, fathers, or friends in prison become a close knit family. We look out for each other, we get to know each other during some of our darkest days, and we become partners in our suffering. We are not allowed to interact very much with other inmates, and yet, we feel a bond that is hard to explain to others. We often see our “visiting room family” far more than we see our own family.
We share an experience that others will never understand – and we hope they never do! There are so many wonderful people in prison (and their families). If you have never experienced having a friend or loved one in prison, you have no idea what is happening in our justice (or unjust) system. There are people who should not be there at all, there are people who have been there far longer than they should have been, and those who may deserve to be there do not deserve the unjust treatment they receive while they are there.
Paul warns Christians that they WILL endure suffering. We shouldn’t be surprised when it happens. However, through the experience, we can get to know Christ far more if we keep our hearts free of bitterness through the trial. If your only question during a period of suffering is “Why is this happening?”, you may miss out on truly getting to know, love and understand the suffering that Christ endured on our behalf. Instead, we need to become a partner in the midst of suffering and experience the intimate relationship we are afforded through the trial with the One who desires for us to get to know him.