The Fellowship of His Sufferings

By Chris Treneer

I would prefer to know, love, and become like Jesus just by sitting in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea and my Bible, or by spending hours praying for my family and reading a devotional book. But sometimes the path to knowing, loving, and becoming like Jesus includes pain. 
 
Over the past two and a half years, Mike and I have walked with our little granddaughter, Claire, and her parents, Matt and Anna, through Claire’s battle with leukemia. It has been one of the most painful and profound learning experiences of our lives.
 
There has been so much that Claire has not been able to understand: the bitter tasting medicines, the unnerving visits to the clinic, the “pokes” (as she calls them) when nurses take blood samples. She has had to endure the surgical placement of a port for chemotherapy treatments. She’s always hated the spinal taps. And she’s had to persevere through the difficult side effects of chemo. 
 
As I’ve watched Claire struggle with this frightening illness, I’ve been reminded of Jesus’ call to become like little children (Matthew 18:3). Throughout the treatments, Claire has trusted her mother. The greater her uncertainty or pain, the tighter Claire would cling to Anna. Claire did not understand why she had to take her medicine; she did it because Mummy said so. She still does not like having “pokes” for her ongoing blood tests, but she holds Anna tight, closes her eyes so she doesn’t have to look, takes deep breaths, and courageously trusts what her mummy asks her to do.
 
Whenever I have been with Claire and Anna at the clinic or hospital, I have leaned on Psalm 63:8 (which has become one of my favorite verses): My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me (NASB). My relationship with the Lord should be like that, clinging to Him through the painful, frightening, discouraging things of life.
 
Claire is becoming like Christ. Her experience of suffering has made her empathetic toward others, even at age five! She has an understanding of Jesus’ suffering that is touching. When we were talking about the Easter story together, Claire told me, “Jesus’ pokes were so much worse than mine.”
 
So, as our family’s journey with Claire demonstrates, the path to Christlikeness often passes through suffering. We continue to be concerned about what might be ahead. We realize that suffering is part of life, but I believe that we can choose to face suffering in a redemptive way, to join with Jesus in the fellowship of His suffering. Having that perspective changes everything.
 
A letter from my brother, Peter, helped me to see the importance of my attitude. He pointed out that, in Philippians 3:10, Paul tells us about the power of a redemptive attitude in the face of suffering. Paul expressed what he wanted most in life when he said, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death . . . (NASB). He considered other things to be worthless in comparison to knowing Jesus. He had decided what he wanted most in life—to know Jesus, even in His sufferings. 
 
This leads me to a question: What do I really want most in life? What do you want most in life? I don’t know about you, but I am not very keen on experiencing pain and hardship. But I know that life will bring its share of suffering, and eventually death; so, like Paul, I need to choose my attitude. 
 
Before my father died, when I was young, he taught me that in every situation I must choose one of three attitudes: I can choose to have a rebellious attitude, a resigned attitude, or a redemptive attitude. When we see suffering as a chance to walk with Jesus—to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering—then we can redeem the suffering and let it help us to grow in knowing, loving, and becoming like Jesus.
 
Our attitude makes all the difference.

Chris Treneer co-labors with her husband, International President Mike Treneer. Chris served with Mike in Kenya for 16 years, after which time Mike led the European work. They have lived in Colorado Springs since 2005, when Mike became International President.