Suffering is universal. Although we’d like to think that knowing God would shield us from suffering, we follow a crucified savior. Sometimes that adds to our suffering. How do we cope? Here are some thoughts on the topic from St. Peter, apostle and martyr.
Don’t Suffer for Doing Wrong
Don’t Be Surprised If You Suffer for Doing the Right Thing
How Peter Says to Cope
- Let God Be the Boss
- Let God Do the Worrying
- Stand Firm in Your Faith
- Know You Will Be Rewarded
Text: 1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11
Suffering is universal.
There are many people who wish it weren’t so. And there are others who will tell you that our Christian life should be one victory after another. But the Apostle Peter wasn’t one of them. In today’s Epistle lesson Peter deals with the simple FACT that Christians suffer, too. For Peter there was victory, but not without a struggle.
Christians sometimes suffer for doing things that are wrong. But if we do wrong we should expect to suffer the consequences so that we will learn to let the Word of God govern our lives. Peter says, “judgment begins with the household of God.” By that he means, don’t presume upon God’s grace. Don’t think he’s going to let you off the hook if you ignore him and fall into disobedience. Instead you should hope that he will see to it that you learn not to repeat your offense. One of the Psalmists put it this way:
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your Word.Psalm 119:67
Peter says he doesn’t want us to suffer for doing what’s wrong; he’d rather have you do what is right! But, he also says you shouldn’t be surprised if you still suffer, because Christian often suffer for doing the right things.
Beloved, don’t be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings.1 Peter 4:12-13a
Note here it is the one who is obeying Christ who suffers. This suffering tests his or her faith and as Peter said in chapter one, it serves to refine and purify it. So even if we believe God’s Word and in faith are doing what he has set before us, we may suffer–as Peter and the people he wrote to did and as every martyr has.
But let me give you different example that’s closer to home. A young friend of mine who works in the COVID section of a hospital remarked that she felt like a lamb being led to the slaughter. She was alluding to a passage that Isaiah wrote that concerning Christ. My friend has a calling from God to help the sick and to work of their recovery. It’s possible she will contract the disease because of her work. It’s certain that her life has been disrupted by it. Her willingness to do this work despite the danger, is a Christ-like act. Her struggles will be a way for her to share in the sufferings of Christ.
So what do we do if find ourselves in difficult or unpleasant situations because of our callings or because of our obedience to Christ? I’ve pulled four things from Peter’s epistle to share with you.
The first is let God be the boss.
Peter says we should entrust our souls to God. Many of you will hear that as a promise of eternal life. I’d like to suggest it is more than that. Genesis says, God breathed the breath of life into the man and he became a living soul. So I’d like you to hear this as “put your life in God’s hands.”
Soldiers do something like this all the time. Their lives are in the hands of their commanders. If the generals say, take that beach, they will give their lives to take the beach, as many did at Normandy.
God has far more claim to the life of a Christian than any general. He takes no pleasure in the death of his holy people, but he is willing to ask us to lay down our lives for his purposes. Ours is simply to do what he lays before us.
We entrust him with our lives by letting him choose how they will be spent and also by trusting in his power to raise us from the dead. The Christian who dies in faith is not lost. He continues to live in the presence of God and will rise from his or grave on the last day to receive an eternal reward.
Second, let God do all the worrying. Peter says
Cast all your anxiety upon him because he cares for you.1 Peter 5:7
Worry accomplishes nothing. Prayer puts things in the hands of the one who can accomplish anything. So consider how much he loves you and understand that every eventuality has been planned for by him who sees the end from the beginning. He will provide whatever you may need to accomplish his purpose and to endure the difficulties and struggles that lie ahead of you.
Third, stand firm in your faith. That’s how you resist God’s enemies and the devil who leads them. Stories about the Devil and Dan’l Webster not withstanding, you’ll never outsmart the devil. He’s too clever and too good a liar. His goal is to get you to give up in despair, to abandon your faith in God. Stand against him by holding fast to your faith. Trust God and let him do the hard stuff, while you do what you can with what God has given you.
Finally, believe that God will restore and reward you. Peter wrote
After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.1 Peter 5:10
God will give you strength for the day and hope for tomorrow. His purpose cannot be thwarted. Given that shouldn’t we, as Christian soldiers, be willing to suffer anything, even death, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and the eternal rewards Christ has promised? Of course we should!
Let us pray:
Lord God, you have called us to be conformed to the image of Christ through suffering and to inherit a place in his eternal kingdom, therefore grant us courage and strength, that we may not falter, but rather accomplish all that you set before us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.