I rejoice in what was suffered for you. (Col. 1:24)

“The suffering of being unable to love.” That was Dostoevsky’s unusual definition of hell. The apostle Paul must have had a similar view of suffering and love. In Colossians 1, he said, “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (v. 24).

Paul had a profound capacity to suffer for the sake of the gospel. He was imprisoned, beaten near death, whipped with lashes and rods. He felt in constant danger from all kinds of enemies. He had been hungry, thirsty, cold, and exposed. He had been shipwrecked, stoned, stranded, and understandably sleepless. But all of this suffering was for the sake of the church. He didn’t enjoy his sufferings, but he did rejoice in them. Why?

To suffer meaninglessly is one thing. But suffering for someone you love is another thing altogether: an act of service, a sacrificial gift. To suffer for Christ and His body, the church, is in fact worship. So to rejoice was only natural for Paul. In fact, to not be able to love the church would have felt more painful than to love and suffer for it.

Love others through the suffering, and rejoice.

David Drury is the author of Being Dad and coauthor of SoulShift and Ageless Faith (all Wesleyan Publishing House). He is also the chief of staff of The Wesleyan Church.