Home > For My Stuck Friends > For My Stuck Friends: The Worst Circumstances Can Have Meaning

For My Stuck Friends: The Worst Circumstances Can Have Meaning

Beloved, do not 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, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:13

That really doesn’t sound like fantastic advice at first glance. Or even at second glance. Rejoice when you hurt like Jesus hurt. You know what? I’d rather just not hurt like that. Or I’d rather you tell me how much nicer it is to suffer when you are in Christ because God pretty much takes it all away. Or God makes you really happy even in your pain. Or, at the least, the pain is at least alleviated when you follow Jesus. Peter doesn’t really have happy promises from God about suffering.

However, he does have good news about suffering. The good news is that through Christ, our suffering can have deep meaning. If we suffer while doing what is good and right and in line with who Jesus is, then our suffering will be for our good. It is a credit to us. There can be joy in it. We get to share in what Jesus did, finding comfort in his leadership in the toughest of circumstances and further understanding of his love. We get to connect ourselves with the Messiah and his same way of thinking to, through suffering in the body, cease from sin (1 P. 4:1).

We are also warned frequently in 1 Peter about the absolute pointlessness of suffering for doing evil. Suffering like Jesus brings meaning, but suffering apart from him, in relationship and in action, has no meaning. You just hurt. And there’s no more to it. It’s not full of joy. There’s no character building because you’re suffering without persevering. There’s not the sense of intimacy with Christ by experiencing with Him some of the suffering He experienced. There isn’t the closeness of spirit. It’s just pain. Empty pain. And when the pain is over, you have nothing to show for it.

I have suffered both ways. Not that there is a dichotomy between them, but if there is a spectrum where suffering for and while doing good is at one end and suffering for doing evil is at the other, then I have suffered on both ends of the spectrum. Both started the same, with pain and difficulty and deep overwhelming suffering that I had no control over. But they did not end the same. When I suffered well, my character was built, my pride was lessened, my heart softened, my resolve stiffened, my love overflowed, my faith grew, my hope was strong, and my joy lost its limits. It was one of the best seasons of my life. When I let my suffering drive me to evil, well, the opposite happened. And it sucked. I don’t even want to talk about how much it sucked. It was the worst season of my life.

So… why do I feel like this concept can help us get unstuck? Because man (and woman), there is a life of incredible meaning out there that transcends circumstances. There is rejoicing in sorrows available. There is more intimacy in all of our relationships available to us. But we won’t experience it unless we live according to God’s will and put away the passions of the flesh. Everything in life, no matter how terrible, can have substantive meaning and build the kingdom of God or everything in life can be pointless and destructive. I guess that’s the crux of it for me. Maybe it has some weight for you too.

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