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Paul says that he “fills up in his flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions.” This can be understood as Paul himself participating with Christ in Christ’s afflictions, because Jesus’ body, the Church, has not undergone the full extent of it’s suffering. The Body of Christ continues to suffer afflictions, and we can choose to willingly associate ourselves with these “scandals” or we can distance ourselves from them. We can say, “It’s not popular to be pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-abstinence,” and kowtow to the world, thus shirking the afflictions of Christ. Or we can proclaim the truth of God and with rejoicing accept whatever hell the world heaps upon us.
It can also be understood as Paul filling up what his own flesh lacks in regards to Christ’s afflictions, as he tries to live out the life of Christ in his own body. Each of us struggles against the flesh. God has lavished love upon us and we are called children of God (1 Jn. 3:1). But we still struggle to snuff out the remnants of the sinful nature. We live in a world of death, and too many Christians are satisfied to live like zombies, like living dead—having had the sinful nature put to death in the waters of baptism, but continuing to walk in the deeds and desires of the sinful nature. Lukewarmness will get us nowhere but spit out. But when we fill up in our flesh what’s lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, when we mortify our bodies and live by the Spirit, we live like children of God—and that is what we are! The family resemblance should be apparent! Even as Jesus suffered and died, so we also should suffer and die. As Jesus died for us, we must die for Him. Jesus told us that in this world we would suffer tribulations. By accepting these trials for the sake of His Body, we won’t be worried and upset and distracted.
Jesus said that Mary would not have the better part taken from her. Jesus rejoices when we are with him, and He will never leave us or drive us away.
As we spend more time with God, we may find that it feels like God leaves us alone and that every prayer bounces off the ceiling. But He is faithful. Even in our darkest times, if we remain true to God, He shall keep us. In these times—to show us the full extent of our love for Him—He tests us and permits us feel alone. But He does this to open our eyes to how much He loves us even in the hard and lonely times. If God never gave us times of trial, we would be untested, unrefined. Gold ore unrefined is of little worth, little more than a rock that could have been precious and treasured and beautiful. But when gold ore is put through the fire, when it is burned and boiled and skimmed and tested, it becomes truly beautiful,
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