Graciously Given Suffering

Journal Entry for July 19th, 2007

There is a powerful word in Philippians 1:29. The ESV reads, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” The (slight) issue I have with this rendering is that I’m not sure it brings out the heart of the word karizomai (ESV: “granted”). This may be only a personal impression, but the reading above makes it seem as though Paul views the suffering the Philippians must endure as an unfortunate reality. Obviously, there is a sense in which suffering for Christ is unfortunate, but that’s not often how Paul talks about suffering.

The primary definition of the verb that Paul uses, karizomai, is “to give freely as a favor; to graciously give.” This is the same word used in Romans 8:32, when Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” So it is not that Paul is merely suggesting that followers of Christ should come to expect suffering, or that they should merely “grin and bear it” in times of suffering, rather Paul comes awfully close to picturing the suffering that the Philippians have been “granted” as an instance of grace. It reminds me of Paul in Romans 5:3: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings…,” and of the apostles in Acts 5:41: “…Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name.”

Lord, my suspicion is that you have “freely and graciously” granted to me a rather small portion of suffering for Christ. I live in a time and place in which the worst suffering I will face will likely be limited to scoffing or words of hate. Should my and my family’s circumstances ever change in this regard, would you freely give not only suffering, but also the grace necessary for us to see suffering as grace. In the meantime, make me bold and unashamed enough to proclaim Christ crucified without reservation or apology, whatever suffering it might bring. Amen.


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