Suffering With Christ

Suffering isn’t a topic for polite conversation. But it is something that I believe should be on all our minds this weekend. 2000ish years ago, the God of the universe suffered unlike any other in history.

For you and for me.

But of course we’re not spared from suffering. The apostle Paul and others in Scripture tell us that we should rejoice in suffering as a means of purification and as something we share with Christ.

There are many reasons that suffering changes us personally for the better, but we’ll save those for another time. What I want to show today is that our sufferings for Christ are a light to the world around us.

Here’s an excerpt from an autobiography from a former KGB agent, Sergei Kourdakov, that I think you’ll find impactful (some graphic imagery lies ahead):

“I saw Victor Matveyev reach and grab for a young girl who was trying to escape to another room. She was a beautiful young girl. What a waste to be a Believer. Victor caught her, picked her above his head, and held her high in the air for a second. She was pleading, “Don’t, please don’t. Dear God, help us!” Victor threw her so hard she hit the wall at the same height she was thrown, then dropped to the floor, semiconscious, moaning.”

In a different raid Sergei sees this girl, Natasha, again.

“I quickly surveyed the room and saw a sight I couldn’t believe! There she was, the same girl! It couldn’t be. But it was. Only three nights before, she had been at the other meeting and had been viciously thrown across the room…

I picked her up and flung her on a table facedown. Two of us stripped her clothes off. One of my men held her down and I began to beat her again and again. My hands began to sting under the blows. Her skin started to blister. I continued to beat her, until pieces of bloody flesh came off on my hand. She moaned but fought desperately not to cry. To suppress her cries, she bit her lower lip until it was bitten through and blood ran down her chin.

At last she gave in and began sobbing. When I was so exhausted I couldn’t raise my arm for even one more blow, and her backside was a mass of raw flesh, I pushed her off the table, and she collapsed on the floor.”

Yet, they would meet once more, in still another raid.

“There she was again – Natasha Zhdanova!

Several of the guys saw her too. Alex Gulyaev moved toward Natasha, hatred filling his face, his club raised above his head. Then something I never expected to see suddenly happened. Without warning, Victor jumped between Natasha and Alex, facing Alex head-on.

“Get out of my way,” Alex shouted angrily.

Victor’s feet didn’t move. He raised his club and said menacingly, “Alex, I’m telling you, don’t touch her! No one touches her!” I listened in amazement. Incredibly, one of my most brutal men was protecting one of the Believers!…

“No,” Victor shouted back. “She has something we don’t have! Nobody touches her! Nobody!”

…For one of the first times in my life, I was deeply moved…Natasha did have something! She had been beaten horribly. She had been warned and threatened. She had gone through unbelievable suffering, but here she was again. Even Victor had been moved and recognized it. She had something we didn’t have. I wanted to run after her and ask, ‘What is it?'”

Sergei later says – “Natasha, largely because of you, my life is now changed and I am a fellow Believer in Christ with you…Thank you, Natasha, wherever you are. I will never, never forget you.” *

Maybe God has chosen this time in your life as a season of suffering. Maybe you’ve chosen it, maybe you’ve brought it upon yourself, maybe it’s been thrust upon you unjustly.

No matter what, you can bet that people are watching. In the words of John Piper, “Don’t waste your suffering.” Use it as a light to the world, a city on a hill, a testimony that people can not argue with.

* From The Persecutor by Sergei Kourdakov

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