Colossians 1:24 is not a verse that I’ve heard a lot of teachings on, but off and on since the late 90’s it has been one that I’ve returned to often. Lately I’ve been pondering a little different angle on it. Here is what the verse says:
“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 that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (NASB)
Paul is writing this verse in the context of our union with Christ—verse 27—“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We are His manifestations here on Earth as He lives through us and we are privileged to “fill up what is lacking in His afflictions.”
When I think about or read verse 24 I’m also reminded of 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5 about how we’re comforted by God in order to comfort others. I often turn to these passages when I’m hurting in order to help my mind make sense of the pain. I like it when Jesus identifies Himself with me or me with Himself.
In the last several months whenever I’ve felt a lot of pain from losses, fears, not being understood, not listened to, not heard or not cared about, as I’m talking to Jesus about it and journaling, I’ve noticed that there is a theme to what He’s saying to me over and over. I keep hearing Him say, “I understand and I am feeling it with you.” I never hear a negative or a rebuke about myself or any of my feelings.
If I am overwhelmed by the feelings, He just sits with me in the pain and reassures me that He is there and knows how it feels. He won’t give me much insight during that time; He waits until I am not overwhelmed before speaking Truth. I can believe He knows how it feels because it‘s easy to think of many ways He must hurt from rejection and misunderstandings.
Recently I had some new thoughts about these passages as I mused about different times in my life that I‘ve felt unheard and misunderstood. Since it’s my desire to listen when I might need to learn something, I usually err towards the side of believing it’s mostly my fault, especially when I’m not certain, or wish to explain and dialogue about it and I can’t.
This vacillation between feeling misunderstood and wanting to see what I need to see has been a long-time struggle for me, with lots of fear that I won’t be teachable. Only Jesus can make it clear and unravel the feelings. So I asked Him, “Is there something from my past that is not healed here?” I heard Him say, “It will always hurt when you are misunderstood and not listened to. It hurts Me when people don’t listen to Me.”
That’s when i had my new “aha” moment.
I said to Jesus, “I just realized that, before I learned what to do with pain, I believed, of course, that You hurt , but somehow You just sorta sloughed it off and bore it because You’re God. It couldn’t be the same for You because You’re strong and powerful and tough. So I concluded—if You are making me in Your image, then I must somehow learn better how to slough off pain.”
As always, it’s hard to put into words things that we see through the Spirit, but through these months of Him telling me over and over how much He understands my pain, I saw more clearly how important and okay it is for us to feel our pain and not avoid it. Because many here on Earth don’t listen to God, or even want to, He knows how we feel when others don’t want to listen to us. Only God would be able to hold the world’s rejection.
So as I continued the conversation with Him, I thought of the verse, Colossians 1:24, and had a new thought: Is one of the reasons we suffer to “fill up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” so that, as we turn to Jesus in our pain, we can see more clearly how He identifies with us and then truly feel more loved by Him? When I look at it this way, it helps me know how much He truly loves us.
I encourage you to think about not running away from pain, but turn to Him and feel His identification with you. Take His comfort and learn that He is not going to rebuke you. He wants to assure you that He truly understands how you hurt. As He takes you through it, he can heal the wounds so that you “may know Jesus and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:10
I’ve always wanted to know the power of His resurrection. That knowing comes through suffering well.