Summary: The purpose is to help change our errant thing about how suffering is to be avoided at all cost.
Suffering is Good
God had one Son without sin; He has no sons without suffering. St. Augustine
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything. James 1:2
"James, are you crazy? Welcome trials and sufferings; are you daft? This proves that the Scriptures are not inerrant. How could this statement to welcome suffering be the Word of God?" It would make sense if it said, "Consider it pure joy each time God takes away your trials." At least that reading harmonizes with the values at work in the world and the average church prayer meeting today.
Since we have been nourished so long on the hog swill of the world, we find a statement like James’ quite alarming. Though we say we agree with Paul in his desire to follow Christ, we find that we only agree about the benefits but not the cost. Paul said in Philippians 3:7-10, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Evelyn Christensen has astutely pointed out that we are only two/thirds disciples:
That I may (1) know him, and (2) the power of His resurrection, and (3) the fellowship of his sufferings. But how common it is for us to want to know only the first two-thirds of what Christianity is all about - Him and power. But the remaining third - the fellowship of His sufferings - we so frequently leave off our list of wants. Evelyn Cristensen
None of us oppose the part of the Gospel that tells us about all the good things coming to us upon surrendering our hearts to Christ. However, we think the part about "suffering with Christ" was meant for the poor souls in the rest of the world.
So you accepted Him, and felt you had the right to expect the bumps of life to smooth out. . . But the right to be free from suffering and difficulties was not one of them. In fact, according to Scripture, that seems to be one of the rights you lost the moment you became Christ’s Evelyn Cristensen
There are so many books on the shelves of Christian bookstores and seminary libraries whose purpose is to help us find comfort and success in this life. The percentage of filler in newer books continues to rise, and the nutrition value continues to decrease. Through reading many of these books, the hopes and expectations of the reader are stirred up, only to be dashed to pieces when they have to face reality. They promise potential converts that their journey to heaven will be smooth, comfortable and uneventful when the truth is quite the opposite.
I remember quite a few years ago, as I read what later became a classic text on the last days and the Lord’s Coming, that one of seven reasons given to support the belief in the Pre-tribulation Rapture was that "Christ would not allow his church to suffer." Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, Isaiah and many other saints through the ages would call that "pure baloney." The idea sounds delightful, but it is just the opposite of the truth.
The Scriptures and church history tell us again and again that the saints were persecuted and suffered many atrocities, some worse than crucifixion. We think that that happened because their times were different than ours, but I am coming to realize that it was because they were different than we are. The Scriptures abound with texts that say that Christ’s followers will suffer for their faith.
Jesus must therefore make it clear beyond all doubt that the ’must’ of suffering applies to his disciples no less than to himself. Just as Christ is Christ only in virtue of his suffering and rejection, so the disciple is a disciple only in so far as he shares his Lord’s suffering and rejection and crucifixion. Dietrich Boenhoffer
For that is the highest thing that men want, to have joy and happiness and to be without trouble. Now Christ turns the page and says exactly the opposite; He calls "blessed" those who sorrow and mourn. Thus throughout, all these statements are aimed and directed against the world’s way of thinking, the way it would like to have things. It does not want to endure hunger, trouble, dishonor, unpopularity, injustice, and violence; and it calls "blessed" those who can avoid all these things. . . . a Christian must count on sorrow and mourning in the world. Martin Marty
Jesus was a model for us in so many ways. We are to be imitators of him. "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (I Pet. 2:21). Through Peter, the Holy Spirit also said, Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin" (I Pet. 4:12). If we are the least bit serious about following Jesus, we will have to pay for that commitment with suffering.