The book I find most spiritually nourishing after the Bible is Samuel Rutherford’s The Loveliness of Christ, which consists of extracts from his letters. I keep the copy my parents got me when I graduated from seminary near my computer in my office so that I can glance through it from time to time. Every time I pick it up it drives me to Christ. Here are some great quotes about suffering I have been thinking about lately as I’ve been looking over it:
“You will not get to steal quietly to heaven, in Christ’s company, without a conflict and a cross.”
“You must learn to make evils your great good, and to spin out comforts, peace, joy, communion with Christ, out of your troubles, which are Christ’s wooers to speak for you to himself.”
“My Lord Jesus has fully recompensed my sadness with his joys, my losses with his own presence. I find it a sweet and rich thing to exchange my sorrows with Christ’s joys, my afflictions with that sweet peace I have with himself.”
“I have no quarrels at his cross. He and his cross are two good guests, and worth the lodging.”
“Christ and his cross together are sweet company, and a blessed couple. My poison in my palace, my losses are rich losses, my pain easy pain, my heavy days are holy and happy days. I may tell a new tale of Christ to my friends.”
“I have many a grieved heart daily in my calling. I would be undone, if I had not access to the King’s chamber of presence, to show him all the business.”
“They are blessed who suffer and sin not, for suffering is the badge that Christ has put upon his followers: take what way we can to heaven, the way is edged up with crosses.”
“His cross is the sweet burden that ever I bare: it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, and sails are to a ship, to carry me forward to my harbour.”
My takeaway: a great part of intimacy with Christ is finding Him to be sweet right in the midst of a bitter cross. Coming to Him during suffering and allowing Him to give us strength, endurance, and even joy, right in the midst of that place. Jesus does not get the praise He deserves when we only worship Him out of abundance and ease. He is glorified and seen for His true worth when we find Him enough for us in our lowest moment – enough to forgive our deepest sin, enough to heal our deepest shame, enough to give us contentedness and strength and joy in our deepest struggle.
What if we really believed that the deeper the suffering, the more real and gracious we will find Christ to be in the midst of it? What if we so loved and valued Christ that suffering in His service was an honor greater than any earthly praise, and therefore a joy greater than any earthly comfort? We would be able to face suffering without fear, and with true joy. Jesus, give me a heart that loves you so much that it yearns with blazing longing to be spent, and to suffer, for you.