Updated: Aug 26, 2018
So there I was. Sat at my desk working away at clearing my to-do list. We’d just come through a really busy period at work, but my team managed to get through it all (despite being one person short). I’d only been promoted to manage my team just weeks before, and the handover was both stripped back and sudden. It felt so overwhelming to be thrown into the deep end of so many new responsibilities. Worst of all, I felt so under-prepared. So I clutched with dear life to the truth of Psalm 144:1 – “He trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle”.
I’d prayed passionately for this promotion. I spoke with all boldness when I interviewed too. Then finally, all that I’d prayed for suddenly came to pass. I got the promotion, I got the pay rise and I got the opportunity to really shape the direction of my team. My friends and family rejoiced when I told them, but not everybody wished me the best in the new role.
What I hadn’t bargained for…
The old team manager was moving on to a slightly different role within our department. He didn’t seem too happy about the move, and was frustrated by our seniors for not offering him a significant pay rise with his new role. He spoke with me before he realised I was interested in the team manager role. He told me that he hoped the team fell apart under the leadership of the next team manager. His frustrations had nothing to do with me, so far as I was aware. But by walking into the team manager role, I also walked into the firing line of his hopes that the team would crumble.
The team manager role came with several pressures, challenging personalities and endless expectations. On top of this, I had to deal with the shift in my old manager’s attitude towards me. The moment I stepped into the new role, it felt like I’d become his enemy. He made comments around my team in an attempt to undermine me. He refused to give me any substantial handover for certain complex tasks which only he knew how to do. Despite all this, he still gave me really positive written feedback during our mid-year review. It baffled me when I read it. How could a man so bent on my downfall have so much good to say about me?
Whether or not he actually had bad intentions towards me isn’t something I know for certain. But I do know that I faced a number of challenges coming into the team manager role. When I was praying for God to give me the role, I hadn’t even imagined that it would come with so many challenges. I expected things to be a little more challenging, but not to the extent that it actually was. This is such a common pitfall for us as believers. We pray for the blessing, but don’t consider the burdens that sometimes comes with it. We pray for the promotion, but we overlook the need to sometimes endure mistreatment and receive less honour than we’re actually due (just like the example of Jesus - see Philippians 2:5-11).
Suffering for following Jesus
Something that we can’t escape is that God’s word says a lot about us suffering for following Jesus. In many parts of the world, we see this clear as day. Christian’s being killed for their faith by those who won’t tolerate the name of Jesus. The suffering of our brothers and sisters is extremely real and not too different from the sufferings of the early church. But many of us Christians in Western societies are quite disconnected from these obvious forms of suffering. We don’t have to live in fear that our governments will kill us for following Jesus. But this shouldn’t distract us from the realities of what we’re still up against – even in the west. It’s not that we don’t suffer as Christian’s in the west. Our sufferings simply take a different form.
Christian Suffering in the Western World
When we’re provoked by those who take our kindness as a weakness, we’re suffering for following Jesus. When we’re isolated for resisting the crowd and standing against the things that offend God, we’re suffering for following Jesus. When we’re labelled as extreme for not compromising on God’s standards, we’re suffering for following Jesus. Our suffering might not always require a physical death, but it will always require an invisible one. The choice to die to pride by letting go of our offenders and trusting God to vindicate us. The choice to die to being our own saviour by responding to our suffering with the attitude of Christ.
We can’t make the mistake of only seeing life through our physical and earthly senses. As children of God, we are spiritual by nature. At the least, this means that there’s more to life than meets the physical eye.
On the subject of suffering, we have to choose daily to suffer well. We can’t just retaliate to our sufferings based on an earthly way of seeing life. We have to go deeper in our ability to discern by spotting the different forms our suffering may take, then choosing to respond like Jesus. After all, we’re ambassadors of God’s Kingdom – those in a foreign world as representatives of the better way of life. When we endure our sufferings with a Christ-like attitude, we offer the world an open invitation to turn away from its brokenness and enter God’s Kingdom of love.
John 16:33 | Romans 8:6-7 | 2 Corinthians 10:4-6 | Ephesians 6:12 | 2 Corinthians 2:11| 2 Timothy 2:3