Is Suffering Normal For A Christian?

Text:  John 16:16-22

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.
The old author C.S. Lewis once said,
“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
Yes, my friends, if you want to feel really comfortable and to be very happy, Christianity is not your cup of tea.  We hear about this in our Gospel reading from today. 
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells about three different crosses.  That is to say; He mentions His cross of suffering.  He then mentions the cross that the disciples will bear.  And then he talks about the cross of all believers. 
Now, when we use the word ‘cross,’ we are referring to the suffering and pain that we receive as a result of being a Christian.  These crosses can be things such as persecution, pressure, slander, accusations, attacks, and so forth.  We receive these crosses from the world and the devil. 
With this in mind, we must acknowledge that life in this world – as a Christian – is not a long pleasant walk on a beach.  The world hated Jesus, and so it will hate you.  For example, the night that Jesus was arrested, crucified, and buried, the disciples encountered sorrow and distress.  They wept; they felt pain.  But the world?  Well, the world rejoiced.  You see, when the Christian is in sorrow, the world sings.  In the deepest grief of Christians, the world dances. 
And so, as Christians, we are pilgrims in this hostile world.  This world is not our home.  We live in this world as strangers because the world is at war with Christ.  Like oil and water, the world and Christ’s kingdom cannot be blended together – they are not in harmony.  And the same is true for you and the world. 
Now, you may be tempted to try and avoid this cross from the world and the devil.  In fact, there are many ways in which we Christians try to do this.  When the cross of suffering comes, you may be tempted to leave the Christian church.  You may try to convince yourself that it is easier to be a happy pagan with a bottle of port than a suffering Christian with a cross. 
But what if you do not want to leave the church for the ease of paganism, but still, want comfort and happiness as a Christian?
Well, there are about four options. 
The first is that you could go the way of fleeing.  You know, you could run so far away that you are out of the reach of the crosses of the world and the devil – or so you think.  Perhaps you could withdraw in such a way that you become like the Amish.  Or you could maybe develop your own compound with barb wired fences to keep the devil and the world away.  Or maybe, you could snap your fingers and run away in your mind to pretend that it is the wholesome 1960s again, where everything is supposedly comfortable and happy.       
On the other hand, instead of going the way of fleeing, you could fight.  Yes, in this second option you could fight the culture of the world by becoming a cultural warrior.  In this second option, maybe you could fight hard enough against the culture that the world and the devil would not have enough energy to retaliate, thus granting you comfort and happiness.   
Now, both of these options seem to have some potential.  However, at a closer look, fleeing from a cross or fighting a cross always demands more energy than we would think.  And frankly, both of these options are quite silly because they do not work in avoiding a cross of suffering.  Besides, both of these ways go the way of unbelief and not faith. 
There is a third option, an option that is fairly popular in our day and age.  That option is to modernize Jesus and His teaching, to get Christianity with the times.  That is to say; if the teachings of Christianity are changed, they can maybe become easier to swallow so that everyone in the world will like the Church.  You know, get rid of any teachings that would be offensive, intolerant, or exclusive, and in so doing, the world will no longer give out crosses to backward Christians. 
And as long as the teachings of the church are changed to avoid crosses from the world, other things can be changed as well.  For example, the architecture of the church should be modernized to look like a Marcus Movie Theater.  Vestments of the clergy should be exchanged with clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch.  Lyrics from church songs that sound different from the world, should be removed.  And sermons, they need to be changed into ‘talks’ – talks that are based on movies, songs, and cultural clich├ęs.  The goal here is that if the church can look like the world and sound like the world, then the world will not hand out crosses to Christians who are friends with the world. 
Now, it must be said that when the teachings and appearances of the church are changed, there may indeed be a reduction of crosses from the world and the devil.  Yes, to our surprise, when a church goes this way of changing, the church may even find itself popular in the eyes of the world and the devil.  However, what we must acknowledge is that changing the church and the teachings to eliminate crosses is essentially leading Christians into paganism.  The only kind of Christianity that is free from the crosses of the devil and the world, is a fake-Christianity – a pseudo-Christianity.  Christianity in name only.  
So, if being a Christian means that we have crosses that will make us uncomfortable and unhappy, and if we realize the foolishness of these options that were just mentioned, what shall we do?  How do we survive with these crosses of sufferings and pain from the world and the devil?  What should we do with the knowledge that we cannot escape these crosses? 
Should we lose hope?  Should we crumble?  Should we throw in the towel? 
Dear Baptized Saints, not at all!
Consider our Gospel reading again.  Jesus says very clearly that all of this life under the sun – with its crosses – will be a ‘little while.’  That is to say; Jesus does not call us to flee or fight.  He does not call us to water things down to avoid a cross.  And Jesus does not say that the crosses will be removed in this life.  Instead, He says that this life with its crosses will not endure.  Indeed, you and I cannot escape the crosses of the devil and the world; however, they do have an end, and their end is in a little while. 
You see, there will be a time in the future where you will no longer remember the anguishes of this life under the sun.  That is right; your sorrow will not last forever, but it will be turned to eternal joy.  You may be in darkness but take comfort that there will be a dawn of glory. 
As for the time being and as we continue to walk through this life under the sun, cling to the promises of God’s Word – the promises that are for you.  Yes, continually receive the Sacrament of the Altar – that is given and shed for you.  Remember your Baptisms – where God’s name was placed upon you.  Patiently endure any misfortune, comforting yourself with the truth that the Lord is with you in His Word and Sacraments. 
Comfort yourself with Jesus’ Word that this life is only a ‘little while.’ You are living in the little while of this life.  Know that as tough as it gets in this life that the Lord holds not only the beginning but the end of this world. He is the beginning and the end, therefore, we shall not fear what is in the middle because it only lasts a little while. 
Dear Baptized Saints, the Lord Jesus Christ has all things in His hand.  The wind, the sea, sickness, disease, and death itself have submitted and will submit to Christ once again.  Therefore, dear Christians, let the devil, the world, and all the storms of life rage.  Let the crosses be what they may.  Persecution, pressure, slander, accusations, attacks, and so forth - let them have their worst, for they can only do so as God permits them and they can only do so for a little while.
Take comfort Baptized Saints; there is an end to the suffering, an end to the persecution, an end to sin, an end to pain, and an end to the devil.  It is only a little while.  Be patient, wait it out, take courage!  Christ Christ holds the final victory for you. 
In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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