I woke up this morning and stepped out of bed gingerly, flexing my ankle to test it. Would I be able to walk comfortably today? Where else would I have pain and how bad would it be?
No, I’m not injured. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). It’s treatable but not curable and I have pain every day, sometimes mild and manageable sometimes severe and, well, unmanageable.
Where do we turn when it seems that life is pain, however that pain manifests? As Christians, the easy answer is to turn to God but how do we do that when the very circumstances we are in seem to contradict what we’ve heard about God. If He is good, why am I in pain? If He is powerful, why am I suffering? If He really reigns over all, why is life so hard?
The Bible answers these questions and will give us the hope we need to not only endure trials but to grow spiritually in them and glorify God through them.
1 Peter is a really good place to start because it was written to a group of Christians who were suffering severe persecution. The book is a rich resource of encouragement to anyone in any kind of trial.
Let’s look closely at just one of those encouragements found 1 Peter chapter 4 verse 19. “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
The first word of this verse reminds us to look back at the context of the verse. In verses 12-19 Peter is encouraging his audience to endure sufferings with joy because as they were sharing Christ’s suffering for doing good, they would share in His glory when He returned.
This is a theme repeated throughout the book. Suffer well now, looking to the example of Jesus’ so that when He returns in glory we can share that glory with Him! Chapter 5 verse 10 continues this theme, “And 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.”
In light of eternity, even life-long suffering is “a little while.” Look to the coming of Jesus and the hope of heaven to endure. Being in chronic pain makes me long for my resurrected body and for the future of heaven where there will be no more pain or tears or trials.
Those who suffer according to God’s will
We must remember that suffering is not outside of God’s will. Our Christian lives are not promised to be easy, rather, we are promised suffering and it’s actually good for our spiritual lives for us to suffer trials! It’s God’s will to use everything, the good and the bad, in our lives for our good and for His glory.
Suffering is like a refining fire that God uses for our sanctification, the progressive process of conforming our lives more and more to God’s way, getting rid of sin and growing in right living and love for the Lord (see 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 7). God uses these hard things in our lives to expose sin and to help us repent and change.
Entrust their souls to a faithful Creator
Peter here answers our questions of God’s goodness and power by telling us that we can entrust ourselves fully to God. The word for “entrust” here is the same word that is used in Luke chapter 23 verse 46 where Jesus on the cross cries out “Father in your hands I commit my spirit.” We can give Him full charge of our lives, “casting all of your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter chapter 5 verse 7).
His reasoning in verse 19 is that God is a faithful Creator. He made the world. He made you. He made me. He is not a disinterested Creator; He is faithful, trustworthy, reliable and sure. And He cares for us!
While doing good
Being in a trial or suffering does not negate our responsibility to do good.
Now, of course, our good works are not at all intended to save us or to earn us something from God and they are not a get-out-of-trials-free card. But as we grow to love God and reject sin, we will want to please Him with our obedience. Even when it hurts to walk. Even when it’s hard to get out of bed. Even when life is really difficult.
There are days, however, when I’m not strong enough to do this on my own. But in chapter 4 verse 11, Peter tells us that it’s not ultimately up to us. He says, “Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” God is glorified when we serve through His strength, even when we are weak!
I am so grateful for the answers that the Bible provides for me in my suffering. God is ruling and is powerful in my trials and in your trials. He is good and trustworthy. And He will still use us to do good even in our pain as we rely on His strength. May we keep our hope fixed on Christ to joyfully endure whatever He brings into our lives!
Ashley Mullins is the wife of Chris. They are taking a short break from Chris’ seminary education and are currently in Malawi, Africa serving at a training center for Malawian pastors.