1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
When it comes to being a Christian we often talk about the forgiveness of sins, peace with God and eternal life; and that is right, for these are central to the Gospel. One of the things we do not talk about very often is suffering, for if in Christ we have the victory, and if we can bring everything to God in prayer, then we tend to believe that a Christian life is to be a victorious life, filled only with good things. We may talk about sufferings, to point out that from time to time, bad things happen to good people, but hopefully that will never happen to us. In fact if we are suffering, we are likely to suffer silently.
I really do not know much about suffering, I have seen it in others, but never really in my life. Never the less, I would like to tell you about one time when I thought I was really suffering. When I went to St. Louis to the seminary, I went so that I could learn Greek and Hebrew, so that I could know what the bible says, and never again have the problem of my translations says this while this translations says something different. I went to St. Louis because it was clear that God must be in this place, But something happened that almost took it all away, and at the time, I thought that this was really suffering – because as Summer turned to Fall, things began to get colder and colder, until I thought I would die from the cold, until I thought I would die, never being able to get warm again.
So what do you do when things get cold? You put on more clothes and your turn up the heat. But that didn’t work, and finally I was beginning to say – who can live in this god-forsaken place? And soon the question in my mind became a question on my lips, and finally a lament to God to get me out of this place, out of this cold, because I just couldn’t live here.
While this may not be a good example of real suffering, it does show how we are inclined to deal with suffering – first we do everything we can, and only as a last resort do we turn to God with the very specific request – get me out of this! And if God doesn’t get us out right away – then we are tempted to look elsewhere – someone ought to be able to get us out.
Here’s the important thing – while suffering is part of life – while suffering is not sent from God – when we try to take care of it ourselves, we find that we are unable – and in that weakened state – Satan that roaring lion, the one who is seeking someone to destroy, comes, and as we are crippled – we are unable to run away, and unable to save ourselves – it is thus that many perish.
But if we turn to God we find the depth of the grace and the faith he has given us, and in Christ we truly find that we are able to do all things – through him who strengthens us.