Study #3 1 Peter – The Raw Faith of a Sufferer
“6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
“In this you rejoice…” In what? The “this” Peter is talking about is found in the previous scriptures. We rejoice in the living hope we have because of the salvation of Jesus Christ and also in the fact that He guards us until we receive our undefiled, unfading, imperishable inheritance God has stored up for us. This is why we rejoice, but there’s more.
“…though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials…” I like the distinction between why we are rejoicing and what we are going through. We rejoice because of our living hope despite the trials. We don’t rejoice because of the trials. Why is that an important distinction? Well I think many of us who are suffering with chronic illness, health issues, withdrawal symptoms and complications with medications have been made to feel like “bad Christians” for not leaping with joy at our continued pain and suffering. We struggle with the pain and sickness, and then are also made to feel guilty when we cry.
I want to make it clear that being sad about our suffering is not sin. It does not make us bad Christians. In fact, quite the contrary. It’s easy to remain faithful to the Lord when everything’s going well. If you and I can cling to Jesus and to our faith through these horrific health issues, loneliness, marriage and relationship problems, etc., that shows a profoundly deep faith as we rely on the Lord to get us through every minute of pain and suffering.
As verse 7 says, “the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This is a truly genuine faith, friends. Faith through suffering. I will say confidently that I believe we who suffering chronically and severely have a different kind of relationship with God.
For me, the pain and sickness has totally stripped away any false front I might have once held up. I no longer care about pretense or unnecessary tradition. I’ve realized how little I need the extras, the fake smiles, the illusion of perfection, or even the need to beat myself up for my failures. I came to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I tried to keep it up but I succumbed to a different type of dynamic in my relationship with Jesus and now I’m glad that I did.
I no longer need to pretend to be ok when I’m not. I don’t have to have fancy words when I pray, but rather I cry out to the Lord in complete abandonment and honesty, and He meets me where I am. In fact, I think He would rather us come to Him like that – raw and open and real and sometimes broken. Psalm 55:22a says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you…” When you cast a fishing rod you fling it without hesitation. You just cast it out there. God wants us to cast our burdens upon Him with abandonment.
Psalm 22:24 says, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” God doesn’t look down on us or get angry with us when we cry out in our pain and affliction. He doesn’t judge us or expect us to hide our tears from Him. He wants to be the One wiping the tears from our cheeks and comforting our hearts when we fall at His feet in brokenness.
If God doesn’t despise us for our honest suffering, why does His church? Well, I think they just don’t understand. They have been taught that Christians are supposed to be happy, bubbly, prosperous, healthy and beaming with confidence if we are right with God. Scripture just doesn’t support that. God never promised us worldly riches or health on earth. He didn’t heal everyone at the moment they asked for it (and definitely not when they commanded it…which we never see people do in scripture). There are a lot of bad doctrines out there teaching that Christians should name and claim the health, money and success they want. I reject that as being completely unBiblical and actually against the teachings of Christ that tell us we will suffer in this world. Praise be to God that He has overcome the world and that our salvation is at hand.
Notice in this passage in 1 Peter, it often talks about salvation as coming. It’s still coming. Are we marked for salvation as believers in Christ? Yes, amen! However, we are still here on earth suffering with broken bodies, sin and temptation abounding, enemies at our doors and “various trials”. We are marked by the Holy Spirit for salvation. We are under the guarding protection of God and there is nothing the enemy can do to destroy us. Still, while we are here, if necessary, we will suffer. We will hurt. There will be pain and heartache. Jesus went through it and so must we. In the process, we become purified and more like Him than we ever could have achieved on earth without the trials. Amen?
As for our brothers and sisters in Christ…instead of them making us feel like failures in the faith for admitting our weakness and being real about our pain, they should be suffering with us, according to God’s Word. They should be weeping with us and bearing our burden. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
So this pain, these various trials, I believe brings us to a very raw place with God. I know for me, I have struggled with bitterness, doubt, emotional pain, depression, lack of control of my tongue and more. I feel like I’ve become a different person altogether. I don’t use the Christian cliches or flippant phrases anymore like, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” hahah of course He does! Why else would we need Him? “Everything happens for a reason.” Really? Where is that in the Bible? If a woman gets raped, is there a reason for it? If a child has cancer, is there a reason? To say there’s a reason is to say that God made it happen for that reason. I’m sorry but that’s not in the Bible and it’s not the God I know. The truth is that God allowed mankind to have free will. Sin entered in, and with it came death, disease, decay, depravity and lots of other bad things. A rapist hurts a woman by using his free will. Cancer is no respecter of persons and it attacks whomever. There isn’t always a reason, but what we can be sure of, and what IS Biblical, is that God uses horrible things in life to make good. “God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” He takes the sin and hurt and suffering and makes good. I’ve no more need for these cliche statements. Let’s just be real, with God and each other.
We are suffering through various trials friend. God says we rejoice despite the pain because of the living hope we have in Christ. Sickness and pain burns like fire and it melts away all of the impurities, but also all of the pretenses. It makes us pure and raw. In that raw place, we can commune with God in a very personal way, laying in our beds, moaning in the Spirit. He meets us there. It may not look like it looked before and it won’t look like it looks for the healthy and happy at church. But it’s real. It’s a real faith and you can be sure that God is right there with you in the deepest, darkest places. He’s not judging you for your weakness, your doubt, your frustrations. Just be real with Him. Cast it upon Him and let Him commune with you there.