There is something about the fall that always speaks to me of suffering, of surrender and letting go. Yes, the leaves are gorgeous! But I sense a hint of sadness as the trees say goodbye to summer and become barren. Yet, God moves creation through this season every year.
Like the rest of creation, we move through seasons of suffering in our lives. These seasons can be discouraging and confusing. How can we make sense of this? How can we go through these seasons well? In ways that grow our relationship with Jesus?
As I read 1 Peter 4 this morning, three answers to these questions encouraged my heart. I hope they offer some help and encouragement to you, as well!
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2
Suffering invites us to experience inner growth, which lessens the hold of sin and worldly desires on our soul. We are invited to become more like Jesus. There’s something about suffering that can help us see this world and sin more clearly. There are many things in this world that we want to hold on to. God invites us to hold onto Him instead.
God cares more about the growth of character than woldly success. I remember praying a few years ago, confessing pride and God to help me grow. (Okay, we all know this is a dangerous prayer!) Since that time, we have moved twice and have gone through life experiences that have been humbling – and I prayerfully hope have grown more humility in me.
How are your affections or identity being detached from something in life, so you can become more connected to Jesus? Are you aware of any sin to confess and turn from?
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Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13
Suffering invites a change in perspective. We are naturally surprised by suffering, but shouldn’t be! Hard things can be expected. Even Jesus experienced suffering, and through suffering we can know him more. Hard times also put perspective on this life and cause us to look forward to Jesus’ return, to a time when our tears are wiped away and we live with him forever.
Suffering reveals that this life isn’t everything, and causes us to look forward to living with Jesus forever. When I was in college, I honestly hoped Jesus wouldn’t return before I got married. But a heartbreak caused me to grow. The sadness after an ended relationship was hard and I came to know God in new ways, including a new freedom of desiring Jesus to return any time.
What surprised you about your current suffering? How could you see your suffering in a new way? (Understand it, gain new perspective?)
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Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:19
Suffering invites us to do good as an active expression of our trust in God’s goodness. We trust God has purposes He is working through this time in our lives. And while we go through it, while we wait, let’s look for opportunities to do good. These things need not be big! It can be simple as doing dishes with joy or calling someone to encourage them. As we do this, we can honor God and love people.
How can you do good? If you’re not sure, ask God to show you.
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“Lord, I am willing to go with You through this hard time. May the life of Jesus shine through my life more brightly. Help me see the good I can do, as an expression of my trust in Your goodness. I love you.”
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Kathryn Featherstone is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and a board-certified Christian Life Coach, who helps people live and love well out of their strengths and their relationship with Christ. She’d like to encourage you in your journey! Write her a note or see her Coaching page.