(Some of these thoughts came during my “day of suffering/death” over a year ago, which can be explained by this post.)
Over a year ago, I experienced the largest spread of emotions and thoughts that ever have. And I have experienced them to their extremes; crying until there are no tears left. Being so angry that I find myself disturbed by the dark places my heart goes. Being so heartbroken that I can’t find a reason to get out of bed.
And I share all of this not to be dramatic, but to try to communicate in some way what my journey has been like.
There are two thoughts that have kept me going in all of this that I decided I want to share. They have been the only things I can cling to in this time. Perhaps if some of you find yourselves feeling broken, this may help you as it has helped me.
The first is as a result of my reading of the letter of 1 Peter. When all of this happened, the last thing I felt like doing was reading the Scriptures. I know this sounds awful, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to deal with it. The same was true in prayer. I didn’t want to pray, either (and honestly, I still don’t sometimes). I was angry with God. I still get angry with him sometimes.
However, I found myself finally able crack the spine of my Bible and turn to 1 Peter. And I read the whole letter. And I will never read it the same again.
The letter is written to the Jewish Christians who were forced to leave their homeland unjustly and were having to live as foreigners in strange places. They were being persecuted just because of what they believed. I have always had a difficult time relating to these sorts of passages as a privileged, free white man in America.
But then I read this in the second chapter:
“For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
To this you were called? Really?
Could you imagine reading this as someone who has endured suffering unjustly? (This may be hard for some of us to do because we may not have experienced such a thing) But we do have this innate concept of fair and unfair, right? We understand the difference between enduring consequences from our own actions and enduring them because of the actions of others.
And Peter is telling these people that they are called to that.
I found this interesting because he said that they were called (elected, chosen) for a lot of other things, too. Read the first part of the letter. It sounds like good stuff. The stuff we like to talk about.
But then you get to the end. Peter is saying that if we suffer while doing good, we are truly Christians (or “little Christs”-this is one of the few times the word Christian is used in the Bible) He says that when we do this, we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. And if there is anyone who suffered unjustly, it is most certainly He.
But when we think of being called (elected, chosen, whatever word you like), we think of it in terms of the good things: salvation, heaven, blessings, inheritance, etc. But we don’t like to think of the hard things like suffering.
But it is in suffering that we become the most like Christ. Or at least, we have the opportunity to.
So that keeps me going; the fact that I know that God knows what I feel like. He has felt complete rejection. He has felt loneliness. He has felt pain. And that he is listening when I talk to Him. And he understands when my words are more like groans and tears.
And there is resurrection. There is another side. This the second thing that keeps me going.
And that is the topic for another post.
Until then, I leave you as Peter did.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Here’s to living in the “little while”.