19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called,because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:19-21 NIV
As we look back and honestly assess the hard times in our lives, we can attribute most of them to bad decisions that we have made. Those decisions may have involved unkind words that we spoke causing ill feelings and anger between us and others. The decisions may have been based on our fleshly desires and caused us to commit acts that we should not have committed. The decisions could have been bad financial decisions we made because we did not want to wait until we were able to afford certain things. We get no credit or praise for enduring those times that were brought on by our own wrong doing. I cannot recall one time in my life when I had to suffer because of a good deed that I had done. I read the horror stories of our brothers and sisters being abused and persecuted for the good deeds they have done and are doing and I pray for them. Those events seem so far away and foreign to me. And I wonder what my reaction to that kind of treatment would be. Would I stay faithful to God and endure the pain? We are called to and warned to be ready for such acts. We have the examples of those in the Bible and in our daily news of those who do endure. They are the ones who make up the “cloud of witnesses” that surround us. I shed tears of grief as I listen to their stories and I feel so small and unworthy knowing that the tears they are shedding as they tell their stories are tears of joy, the joy of sharing in suffering with our Savior.
It should break our hearts to think about what pain Mary felt as she gazed upon the cross and saw her Son in such agony. What anguish she must have felt as she remembered that this was the little baby that she had held in her lap on the first Christmas day! It must have been hard for her to believe that it took that kind of suffering to redeem a fallen world. As we celebrate the season this year and every year. let us remember that there is no gift that can match the one He gave on the cross. He gave His all for us, so let us commit to living lifestyles that reflect His love for us. Let us rejoice because the cross is empty! Let us sing with gladness of heart, “Joy to the World, the Lord has come” and He has risen in our hearts!