“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24).
Too often the misconception that the Christian life is a life of ease and simplicity without trial and suffering is offered to unbelievers as an incentive to trust Christ. Paul makes it clear in Colossians 1 that offer is illegitimate. The Christian life is a life of suffering with Christ — of being willing to endure now what Christ endured then (at the cross). Believers now “fill up” the afflictions of Christ not in the sense that Christ’s work was inadequate, but that Christ can no longer be personally persecuted, so haters of Christ persecute His followers instead. So rather than expecting a life of ease, the believer can expect a life of persecution and trial (consider, for example, 2 Tim. 3:10-12).
Yet there is joy and hope even in this seemingly hopeless anticipation. Reflecting on Simeon, the man who was pressed into service to carry Christ’s cross to Calvary, Spurgeon writes the following:
We see in Simon’s carrying the cross a picture of the work of the Church throughout all generations; she is the cross-bearer after Jesus. Mark then, Christian, Jesus does not suffer so as to exclude your suffering. He bears a cross, not that you may escape it, but that you may endure it. Christ exempts you from sin, but not from sorrow. Remember that, and expect to suffer. But let us comfort ourselves with this thought, that in our case, as in Simon’s, it is not our cross, but Christ’s cross which we carry. When you are molested for your piety; when your religion brings the trial of cruel mockings upon you, then remember it is not your cross, it is Christ’s cross; and how delightful is it to carry the cross of our Lord Jesus!
You carry the cross after Him. You have blessed company; your path is marked with the footprints of your Lord. The mark of His blood-red shoulder is upon that heavy burden. ‘Tis His cross, and He goes before you as a shepherd goes before his sheep. Take up your cross daily, and follow Him.
Do not forget, also, that you bear this cross in partnership. It is the opinion of some that Simon only carried one end of the cross, and not the whole of it. That is very possible; Christ may have carried the heavier part, against the transverse beam, and Simon may have borne the lighter end. Certainly it is so with you; you do but carry the light end of the cross, Christ bore the heavier end.
And remember, though Simon had to bear the cross for a very little while, it gave him lasting honour. Even so the cross we carry is only for a little while at most, and then we shall receive the crown, the glory. Surely we should love the cross, and, instead of shrinking from it, count it very dear, when it works out for us “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” [Morning and Evening, April 5]