“But whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3: 7-11
So I’ve been meditating some on what it means to take joy in suffering lately. I guess that came up in my last post and then hit me again as I was doing my Bible study in Philippians 3 this week. The verses that really caught me are 3:10-11, though I provide 7-11 for some extra context here. Paul has just finished talking about why he was about the most qualified person for salvation that ever could be–by worldly, Jewish standards anyway. He has perfect lineage, “a Hebrew among Hebrews.” As a Pharisee, he knows the law forward and backward. He had great zeal for his beliefs–which he credits as the motivation behind his persecution of Christians before meeting the Lord on the way to Damascus. He is as righteous and by the book as any man could have been before Christ. But he says, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
None of those credentials is worth anything to him in light of Christ. And none of those things could have saved him.
There are things I rely on in daily life all the time when I should rely on Christ. And things I feel so heartbroken that I am missing. But I was reminded recently that while “children are a blessing from God,” they are not the ultimate blessing. That is salvation.
That doesn’t change the fact that infertility means pain and difficulty and suffering for so many of us, myself included. I haven’t really suffered in this life outside of this, and I have found it difficult to become accustomed to it. I don’t like suffering. I don’t want it. I want nothing to do with it.
But then, that puts me a bit out of line, doesn’t it?
Paul talks about sharing in the sufferings of Christ not just as a worthwhile thing, but as something he desires. Wow.
This verse (verse 10) really hits home when considering how to have joy in our sufferings. We can rejoice in our difficult circumstances because in some small way our challenges allow us to take part, albeit to a lesser degree, in the sufferings of Christ. I believe this is so even when the things we suffer are not outwardly related to our faith or profession thereof. That is, even when our sufferings are not brought about by persecution.
In this sense, I should rejoice in infertility, even if all I could ever gain from it is that I will have shared in some small part in the sufferings of Christ.
I need to remember that to attain resurrection from the dead is worth it at any cost. Even the cost of my ability to bear children. That is so difficult for me to wrap my mind around. But if that is not true, what do I believe?
I think if I had read what I am writing here a few months ago I would have thought two things. First, that this writer is a bit off balance (which, let’s face it, is a completely valid concern even now), and second, that this writer has no concept of what I am going through and clearly cannot understand my pain.
But God is working on me. He is changing my heart and changing my perspective. If you think this is crazy, I don’t blame you. But this. This is what I am thinking. And this is true: My pain is worth rejoicing over if it means I am getting closer to Christ and growing more Christ like.
And in that way, infertility is a discipline, making me better than I could make myself. And God, who knows all things, is growing me and doing what is best for me, as he has promised to do. Even when I don’t understand it.
I don’t have to enjoy it.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
But I do need to rejoice in what suffering really means for me. The building of a Christ-like character within me. And that’s an investment in eternity.