Every person wants to fulfill their destiny … to do what we were created to do. Every serious follower of Christ has this DNA implanted in their soul. Something (or Someone) calls us to this, and it’s a glorious calling.

But there is an ironic component that must be embraced to reach this goal: suffering. We don’t like this word, but to Paul it was vital, because he had accepted the truth that suffering was the high path to greater effectiveness and greater reward.

Paul gives us an important theology for suffering in 2 Timothy 1–2, mentioning it four times in two chapters to young Timothy.

1. We suffer for a great purpose.

Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel (2 Timothy 1:7-8 NASB).

Suffering for the believer is never for no reason. In our suffering we show people the sufficiency and power of God.

Suffering, rightly faced with God, is our most powerful testimony to the gospel. Our suffering shows that having Christ can equip us for the toughest moments of life.

2. We suffer enabled by the power of God.

God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (2 Timothy 1:7-8).

The true believer never suffers alone. We have the overwhelming power of God in us, around us, and through us. We have been given a spirit that is not timid, but powerful.

We can face our suffering with the confidence of sufficient power every step of the way! His power comes through His Spirit, His Word, and His people.

3. We suffer with no fear of the future.

For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Timothy 1:12).

The nagging fear of suffering is the future. “Where will this end? How long will it last? Will I make it?”

For the believer, we have confidence because we know the One we’ve believed, and we trust that He is guarding our future perfectly. God protects us, never allowing more than we can bear with His grace. And God keeps us, ensuring us of a greater future.

4. We suffer alongside others.

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3).

Paul assured Timothy that he was not the only one suffering. “Suffer hardship with me,” Paul said. “I’m in this with you. We’re going to do this together.”

One of the greatest comforts and encouragements in suffering is that our friends are at our shoulder. And we are also helping them as their companions in their journey.

5. We suffer because we are loyal followers of a great Commander-in-Chief.

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3).

We are not suffering for nothing, and we are certainly not suffering for no One! Christ went before us in suffering, and He is leading us through suffering.

We desire to be faithful soldiers and followers of our great King. We are willing to follow Him in the fire because we have died to our own self-interests and serve the mission of our Leader, knowing that He is taking us somewhere important.

6. We suffer, knowing that greater intensity equals greater witness.

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned (2 Timothy 2:8-9).

Paul loved and served Jesus. Period. If serving Him meant imprisonment and death, he embraced it gladly because he knew that the Word of God would go out more fully. The Light would shine more with increasing darkness.

And he knew that the truth would never be imprisoned. The gospel rises above all difficulty and pierces through the darkness of suffering.

7. We suffer for people.

I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it, eternal glory (2 Timothy 2:9-10).

It’s possible to live your whole life simply for yourself—to measure every bit of suffering and difficulty by how it affects you. Small men and women live with self-absorbed intent.

But if you love people for whom Christ died, you are willing to endure anything so they can be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. If your suffering means others will see the reality of God, hear the Word of God, and “obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory,” you are humbly grateful to be used for this glorious purpose.

My mother spent seven weeks in a coma. Her nurse heard us talk of her walk with Christ and watched us as we suffered in her hospital stay leading to her home going.

She later called us to say that she had two sons, and she realized that if she was to be the mother she needed to be to her family, she needed the Christ my mother had, whom she had seen in our lives around her bed.

She and her husband both came to Christ. I told her, “My mother would gladly suffer and die if you, your family, and potentially a whole line of your family would thereby come to know Jesus.”

My precious 10-year-old grandson’s two-year struggle with brain cancer resulted in thousands being affected and his cousin’s salvation days after his death. From heaven, Carter is rejoicing.

If you haven’t faced suffering, just keep breathing. It will always come in this life.

The question is, will your sorrow be wasted because you are simply waiting for it to end, perhaps complaining all the way? Or will you embrace it as a pathway to know God more intimately and illustrate Him more fully to people who need Him?

Father, thank You that You have provided a way to make our suffering meaningful. Thank You that our greatest life message comes out of our greatest suffering. Help us embrace its purpose, and use us to bring about eternal glory for those who watch us in the fire.