Trust God, Do Good.
Suffering. It's such a deep word. Recently, I read through 1 Peter and the the theme of Christian suffering is a big one in that book. Peter is writing to believers who are undergoing various trials, likely persecution due to their faith. Peter reminds these people of their identity in Christ and gives very practical encouragements for how to live the life of faith, even and especially through suffering.
Reading through this book caused me to wonder about suffering. I wanted to be able to take Peter's words to heart and apply them to my life, but first I needed to determine if I have ever suffered. As an American Christian, it is easy for me to feel guilty by identifying with suffering. I live everyday without worrying if I will have food, safety, shelter, health, or money--these are things that I typically take for granted. I may not have everything I want, but I definitely have everything (and way more) than I need. With so many around the world dealing with poverty, homelessness, injustice, and illness, it is easy to feel that I know nothing of true suffering.
Merriam Webster Dictionary defines suffering as pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc.--physical, mental, or emotional pain.
While I firmly believe that a regular dose of perspective is healthy--I should be thankful for my home because so many others live without a home--I also believe that comparative suffering is dangerous. Your pain does not negate my pain, and I can't tell you that you should just tough it out because I can't really know what it is you are going through, even if I have been through something similar.
After thinking on these things for a few weeks, I realize that we all suffer. Our levels of suffering differ, of course, but we all have experienced and will experience pain. That is the result of being a part of a sinful world and a reality of being human. Although I have never felt the pain of being homeless, I do currently feel the pain of infertility. Between homelessness and infertility there is no "better" suffering, there is only different pain. And pain comes with a lifetime guarantee, you will feel it.
So, now what do we do with pain? Now that I had convinced myself that I indeed could identify with suffering, I could accept Peter's exhortation. 1 Peter 4:19 puts the cherry on top of a practical and powerful how-to cope with suffering as a Christian.
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. - 1 Peter 4:19
- Therefore = because of all those things I told you before
- let those who suffer = all of us!
- according to God's will = our suffering is not purposeless, it has been ordained by God for His Glory and our good
- I want to mention that I believe that Peter is writing here specifically to Christians who are suffering under persecution for their faith, however, I believe that the exhortation remains true for those of us who are suffering as a result of the fallen state of human existence--we can still choose to accept and live by Peter's encouragement.
- entrust their souls = stop scrabbling around for control
- to a faithful Creator = He made us and He is faithful to us!
- while doing good = don't just wallow in in your pain, use your time to do good
BOOM. Trust God, do good. Who's with me? (tweet that)