Spiritually Healthy Reactions Bring Hope
Warren E. Berkley
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trails, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 1:6,7). “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God,” (1 Pet. 1:20,21).
The Christians Peter addressed were “grieved by various trials.” We take this to be a specific reference to the persecution they suffered (see 3:17), but here’s the fact: Christians suffered and the causes varied (see Jas. 1:2).
When people become Christians, God doesn’t transport them into a perfect little bubble where nothing unpleasant ever happens again. While this idea is popular and desirable, it just isn’t true. Read about the people who spread the gospel in the book of Acts. They were very good people who suffered some very bad treatment. Study the life of Paul. No perfect bubble. Then consider all the teachings of the New Testament telling Christians how to think of suffering and how to respond to it (Rom. 5:2-5; Jas. 1:2-4, etc.). The fact is, some very harsh realities (often without explanation of origin) hit very good people.
As soon as we discover we are suffering, we must quickly turn our focus to spiritually healthy reactions. Training in faith and character we receive early in life or early in our journey as Christians should put us in position to resist the typical reactions of depression, bitter complaining, lashing out at people and walking away from God.
The same training that enables us to resist unwise reactions should prompt us to become well engaged in spiritually healthy reactions: prayer, contact with good people, reflection on relevant passages of Scripture and activity that (to the best of our ability and knowledge) addresses the problem. Participation in these good reactions is not wasted energy. Learning to suffer is not about finding answers, it is about finding hope when you don’t have answers.