The Bigger Story in Suffering
There is a remedy for suffering people – it is the comfort that comes from God and His Holy Spirit to see us through the suffering.
It’s a standing joke in our family that if anyone hears me punctuate a conversation with – “My Darling” it’s my way of saying – hey, are you paying attention to me?! Get ready, because I’m getting serious now! Two times in the book of 1 Peter, we can find a version of “My Darling” when we read “Beloved” or “My Friends”.
One of the times we see Peter use his version of “My Darling” is in I Peter 4:12-13 when we read: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed”
The big idea in this verse is: MY SUFFERING HAS A PURPOSE. This shattering statement says not to be surprised at ‘the fiery ordeal’…in fact, it may be safe to say, be surprised if it does not come! To have purpose means there are plans and it’s not accidental. Purpose indicates a reason, a responsibility and a goal to be met. And maybe most significantly, a purpose indicates there’s value – significance and worth. When I can acknowledge that there is a purpose to ‘my fiery ordeal’, I am able to see that all the circumstances of my life are determined by God who is merciful, mighty, holy, righteous, patient and always faithful. My suffering is not any sign of God’s neglect, but a mark of the value He has placed on my life.
All of us can tell stories of suffering – financial loss, job loss, relationship loss, etc. – but possibly one of the most challenging losses is found in the death of a loved one. After the death of my husband Gary, God showered His love and mercy down upon me through family and friends. There is a remedy for suffering people – it is the comfort that comes from God and His Holy Spirit to see us through the suffering. Even when we can’t immediately see how our story fits into God’s story of redemption, scripture promises that it does. God has given the life of his only Son so that by believing in him, we have life in Christ.
My Darlings, I tell you this journey is best traveled with God’s people, in community, who can rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. The storms of life can toss and turn us, testing the foundations of what we believe and the firmness of our faith. Fellowship with God’s children provides strength as it gives us the chance to learn and grow. Coming together with others – honest people broken and flawed as I – gives encouragement to move forward, helping me keep my eyes on God. Coming together with other believers in worship and conversation can remind me that we are not alone in this world and together we grow in our faith.