I’m currently reading Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper. In the third chapter on suffering he has an excerpt from Richard Wurmbrand who endured fourteen years of imprisonment and torture in his homeland of Romania between 1948 and 1964. Here is the section Piper quoted:
What shall we do about these tortures? Will we be able to bear them? If I do not bear them I put in prison another fifty or sixty men who I know, because that is what the Communists wish from me, to betray those around me. And here comes the great need of the role of preparation for suffering which must start now. It is to difficult to prepare yourself for it when the Communists have put you in prison.
I remember my last Confirmation class before I left Romania. I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, “Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to do with men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now if you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ.” They had tears in their eyes when they said yes.
We have to make the preparation now, before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything. you are undressed and given a prisoner’s suit. No more nice furniture, nice carpets, or nice curtains. You do not have a wife any more and you do not have your children. You do not have your library and you never see a flower. Nothing of what makes life pleasant remains. Nobody resists who has renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.
For the Christian it is not a matter of if we will suffer, but when. Most of us in America will never experience the kind of persecution you just read about, but we must prepare ourselves for that time. We must decide to renounce the pleasures of this life now, before the time of suffering comes. Then, by God’s grace the suffering will be far easier to endure, because we already treasure Christ as our most supreme joy. Just as Peter tells us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). As Piper says, “Suffering with Christ is not strange; it is your calling, your vocation”. Suffering is coming. It is the joyful task of the Christian to suffer for the sake of Jesus as we advance the Gospel. It is not a matter of if we will suffer but when, and how we will respond. May Christ find us faithful when that fiery trial does arrive.