“Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed’ ” (vv. 34–35).
To be called to full-time ministry in the church as a pastor is a great privilege and responsibility, but pastors are not the only members of the body of Christ who have a divine call. Indeed, our Creator has a call or vocation for every Christian to a specific kind of service in the church and in the world (1 Cor. 12). He prepares us for these vocations by gifting us for ministry and through ordering our lives so that we are trained and equipped for lawful work that blesses our neighbors.
Importantly, the vocations to which God calls Christians are particular and differ from person to person. Not everyone is called to be a pastor. Not all of us have been given the vocation of a lawyer. Only some of us are tasked by God with teaching others. Those who are ordained to political office are few. We could multiply examples, but the point is that each person has a specific calling in the plan of God.
There is, however, at least one calling that all Christians share. This is the call to suffer. Christians have been given the divine vocation of suffering, and all are called to be faithful to this calling, looking to Jesus as our model as we suffer (1 Peter 2:20–21).
Many examples confirm the Bible’s general teaching that all believers will suffer. Perhaps the first that comes to mind for many believers is Job. We know that this vocation was given to him because the book of Job tells us that the Lord specifically permitted Job to be afflicted with many trials (Job 1:12; 2:6). Note that neither Job nor the reader is given a specific reason for Job’s suffering. When Job asks, “Why me?” the Lord replies with a revelation of His character (chaps. 38–41). The lesson for us is that it is less important for us to know the particular reasons behind our specific suffering than it is to know that we can trust in the sovereign goodness of the One who permits suffering to come into our lives.
Job’s example is instructive for us, but the preeminent example of the vocation of suffering is Jesus Himself. God told the earthly parents of our Lord that His life would be one of pain and suffering, and that this would be His calling from His birth to His death (Luke 2:34–35). Our Lord, the only human being who suffered despite being innocent in every way, was able to persevere through the pain and opposition because He entrusted Himself to His Father (1 Peter 2:23). Trusting wholly in God is how we will do the same.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
As the sin-bearer who was Himself perfectly innocent of all transgression, our Savior endured more suffering than any human being ever has or ever will. Scripture tells us that He persevered under suffering not because He relied on His own inherent deity but because He placed Himself completely into the hands of His Father. That is how we will persevere—not by relying on our own strength but by trusting in the Father and His good purposes for us.