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by | Jul 16, 2022 | Caring, New Life, Suffering

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the Word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.

(Colossians 1:24-29)

I admit that it freaks me out every time I read this passage and hear Paul talk about “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” I thought Jesus said “It is finished!” about His suffering. How can anything be lacking in His suffering and death?

But then I take a closer look at these phrases: “my sufferings for your sake,” and “Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church.” There’s no denying that a lot of suffering still happens among Christians. And some of that suffering happens when we are caring for others.

It isn’t easy to care for somebody who has a physical or mental illness. It isn’t easy to walk with somebody who’s going through divorce or job loss or the end of a dream. And there’s a special agony for those who love people who are far away from Jesus, and who are in danger not just physically but spiritually.

Sometimes caring for people is going to rise to a level we might fairly call “suffering.” In Paul’s case, it involved being beaten and thrown in jail for sharing the Gospel with people who hadn’t heard of Jesus yet. In our case, it may be much more mundane—a night walking the floor with a friend’s screaming baby, a blood donation when you’re scared of needles, free evenings sacrificed to figuring out someone else’s taxes.

Yet as Christians, we know that we’re not doing it alone—Jesus Christ Himself is doing it through us, directing our love and sharing whatever suffering there may be. Our afflictions are His afflictions. And so it is fair to call it “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions,” because when it comes to Christ living through His people, the work will never be done until the end of the world—and neither will the suffering.

But what an honor! The same Jesus who suffered, died, and rose from the dead for our sake, because He loved us—that is the One who is inviting us into His work today. He makes us junior partners in His work of love. He trusts other people He loves into our care. It doesn’t get much better than that. Like Paul, we too “rejoice in [our] sufferings for your sake!”

We Pray: Lord Jesus, use me to care for others in the way You see best—and help me to rejoice in it. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on July 13, 2022
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved

Reflection Questions:
1. What kinds of care have you seen in your life that you could fairly call “suffering”?
2. Tell about a time God cared for you through someone else.
3. Tell about a time when God used you to care for someone.