In life we all suffer. We all endure painful seasons, lonely seasons, tempting seasons and even seasons of rejection. For me one of those seasons of rejection hit hard my sophomore year of college. I had decided to start a ministry to the high school students nearby John Brown University. my journey began by reaching out to all of the churches in town, hoping to gain some support. I remember looking up addresses to all 43 churches and writing letters to each of them. Hoping for a few responses, I received none. I reached out to the head of the Youth Ministry Degree program at JBU. He advised me that their town did not need that ministry and I should give up on the idea. This was not the supportive conversation I was hoping for.
Throughout this season, I fought the bitter lie that I was the one being rejected. I was the one they didn’t want. I didn’t have what it took. As I wrestled through those lies, I began to understand what Paul was talking about when he said that he wanted to fellowship in the sufferings of Christ (Phil. 3:10). I realized that I had been feeling what Christ must’ve felt when the Israelites wanted nothing to do with him or his ministry. In my suffering I was able to comprehend more deeply what Christ went through for me. He bore much greater rejection, and I had but a taste of that in my own experience of rejection.
Seasons of suffering can open the door for a deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ. This is the fellowship with Christ’s sufferings that Paul desired. Paul knew he would suffer, and in that suffering he wanted to fellowship with Christ and connect with Christ’s suffering in a way that would bind them together. When suffering comes in life, lean into Christ. When you feel lonely, like no one understands you, remember that Christ also suffered alone for you. In times of difficulties and physical pain, remember that he also endured immense pain on your behalf. When you feel surrounded by temptation and unable to escape, remember that he also endured temptation and chose not to sin so that he would be the perfect sacrifice for your sins.
After several months of rejection, I decided to reach out to a small town nearby. This is where the ministry eventually was planted. For years, God opened doors in that small town to reach students I never would have known otherwise. Getting there wasn’t an easy process, but in the end, it was worth it all.