There are many reasons why we should, with Paul, long to be conformed to the image of Christ in his death (Phil. 3:10)… many, many. But there is one that has encouraged me today. The reason and principle is this: suffering with Christ brings a greater experience of the grace of God and presence of God in your life. Whereas Christ’s suffering was under the curse of God, our suffering is always with his smile and nearness.
Think first of Stephen. It was only when he was surrounded by the angry bulls of Bashan that he had his heavenly vision of God’s glory, his throne, and his Son. God had drawn near.
Think next of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It was when they were tossed into the fire that one “like a son of the gods” came to comfort and protect them. Their friend Daniel had also proved this principle true, for it was when tossed into the lion pit, that he could now say God had, “sent his angel” to him and was present with him.
And even better than the angels that ministered to him in the garden, Jesus had said, “Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)
God gives an extra grace and the glory of his presence when we need it most. Let us not fear suffering, imprisonment, or any form of crucifixion. Let us join with Paul, in conformity to our Savior in every way. There is rich blessing in suffering with Christ in a fallen world. Whether by a vision, an angel, or by the spiritual presence of the One who is unseen, God will draw near to his children when they suffer.