‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’. This is one of the seven petitions in the Lord’s prayer, the only prayer prescribed by Jesus Christ. Christian life is a journey beginning on earth and concluding in the kingdom of heaven where the will of the Father is accomplished in all its perfection. In fact nothing else happens in heaven. Those who are invited into heaven have no other duty assigned to them except fulfilling the will of God.
But the Lord’s prayer is not for those in heaven. It is for us mortals. Our Lord wanted us to strive for a kingdom of God here on earth. He wanted it to stay here as a precursor to the eternal kingdom that we are looking forward to. A kingdom becomes a kingdom of God when all its subjects act to advance the will of God. To fulfill the will of our Heavenly Father, we should first know what His will was. And to know it we should turn to the one and only person who ‘humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8) to fulfilling it.
Even at the hour of his great agony, Jesus’ concern was how best to fulfill Father’s will. ‘Yet not my will but yours be done’ (Lk 22:42). It was perfect submission to God’s will and Jesus sacrificed everything that stood in his way so that ‘God’s will be done’ on cross. And it was for you and me, poor sinners.
What was God’s will to be accomplished through Jesus? Prophet Isaiah has written extensively about it some seven centuries before the Word became flesh. It is not a coincidence that he used the same word that Jesus used in the Lord’s prayer. ‘Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain’ (Isa 53:10). Again, ‘ the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Isa 53:6). ‘ Through him the will of the Lord shall prosper’ (Isa 53:10).
Isaiah’s prophecy hides the mystery of Christian suffering, the epitome of which we see in the cross erected on Calvary. As human beings, we are averse to accept sufferings. It is innate in our genes to resist anything that pains us. Suffering becomes painful when we look towards ourselves. For the unrepentant criminal, his pain multiplied because he was not ready to accept the punishment. His words betrays his frustration. ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us’ (Lk 23:39). He was concerned about only one thing; to escape from the inescapable. To escape bodily death by some miracle that he wanted from Jesus! But the other criminal was composed in his reaction. He was ready to accept the suffering as just punishment for what he did in the past. His only petition to Jesus was for a seat in the kingdom to come.
Between these two criminals stood the cross of Jesus. Even while going through the heights of unparalleled pain, he turned towards the person begging him for salvation and assured him of it.
Suffering becomes a pleasure when it is for others. Jesus knew that his sufferings are the only antivenom to the lethal poison that the devil cleverly injected into man. As Christians we are called to emulate our Lord and Master. They ‘ought to walk just as he walked’ (1 Jn 2:6). Many saints chose this arduous path. With Paul the Apostle they also say; ’But as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…..’( 2 Cor 6:4-5).
Immense strength is required to withstand the moments of suffering and they drew it from the powerhouse of hope. They compared their present afflictions with the reward promised to them and found that it is always beneficial to accept suffering here on earth so that they will be entitled to enter a place of eternal glory. ‘For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond any measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal’ (2 Cor 4:16).
Like the criminal who looked to Jesus in his last moments to gather the strength to face suffering, this hope in eternity is what strengthens us also to accept suffering and pain with a composed mind. We accept them fully knowing that they are just momentary when compared to the boundlessness of our days in heaven.
Let us accept suffering from the hands of God and prove ourselves to be worthy Christians. Be assured that we are not alone in this suffering; ‘For you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering’ (1 Pet 5:9). Together we will suffer, and together we will win.
Let us pray for God’s will to be fulfilled in our life. See God, I have come to do your will,O God (Heb 10:7). May the Lord who suffered for us give each one of us the strength to accept sufferings in our life.