July 26: suffering

And the God of all grace… will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. (1 Peter 5:10)

As I read the final chapter of 1 Peter, I realized how in five short chapters some form of the word suffer appears fifteen times. Peter was an eyewitness to the suffering Jesus experienced in the hours leading to Jesus’ death on the cross. Peter spent his life within a culture that suffered horribly under Roman rule. Peter was a leader in the Christian movement and the suffering that so many faced as they lived by a faith that went again the cultural and religious norm. Peter must have suffered emotionally and spiritually from his own lack of faith during the night of Jesus’ arrest. Suffering had a profound impact and left an indelible image that shaped Peter’s understanding of faith and the power of God’s grace.

Those who first listened to the words of Peter’s letter knew suffering. I cannot even begin to compare my experience of suffering with that experienced by Peter or the first Century believers . But then, I don’t have to have their experience. Suffering is personal. It can be physical, emotional, spiritual. Through the years, I’ve listen to many who were suffering. I’ve sat beside the beds of many who were suffering. I’ve experienced my own forms of suffering – enough to know the importance and power of God’s grace.

Suffering can serve a greater purpose. Not that suffering exists so that we will know this greater purpose, but we can find through our own experience of suffering a greater purpose. Humble yourself, says Peter. Cast all your anxiety on God. So that in the midst of suffering, great and small, God can lift you up.

“To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Today’s readings: Isaiah 46-49; 1 Peter 5

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