From a Guest Blogger
though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials
1 Peter 1:6
To hear many Christians talk one could be forgiven for thinking that faith functions as an anaesthetic. If only a person has a solid theology and a strong enough trust in God then they won’t feel the pain of suffering, loss and disappointment. We tend to be impressed by those who appear to remain strong and positive in the face of tragedy. We can easily be left with the impression that to feel pain is to fail.
But does it follow that if I know beyond doubt that God is in control of all things, and I believe that He has a plan and a purpose in all that He allows, and I submit to His will, trusting that He works all things together for good for His own, then I don’t won’t suffer when suffering comes and I remain untouched by trials?
Consider Job. He expressed great faith and submission in the face of unthinkable loss – The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away – blessed be the name of the Lord.” And yet his grief and mourning were real and deep.
Hannah describes herself as a woman of a sorrowful spirit. But was it lack of faith that caused her to weep bitterly over her situation? Surely it was because of her faith that she poured out her sorrow to the Lord, knowing Him to be full of compassion and sovereign power.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears (2 Corinthians 2:4), not because he lacked a sound knowledge of God but because affliction, anguish and tears are part of our experience in this fallen world.
Our Lord Jesus Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. In the Garden of Gethsemane He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death’. Jesus had no gaps in His theology - He and the Father are perfectly one. He had no lack of awareness of God’s plans and purposes – He knew precisely what His suffering would accomplish and the good that would be worked through His death. His faith was not feeble and His trust was not deficient, nor was there any lack of submission to God’s will. And yet this perfect knowledge and understanding, this complete trust and perfect submission, did not take away the pain. His sorrow and agony were real and intense; greater than any we will ever know.
The trials and sorrows we endure in this life cause real pain, grief and distress, and the Bible does not teach us that faith, or anything else, is the key to avoiding suffering. Rather, God’s Word tells us that suffering is a necessary part of the Christian life. But it also tells us that we can rejoice greatly, because our suffering is only for a little while and because it is not for nothing. It is testing, proving and purifying our faith, as by fire (which is painful), resulting in praise, honour and glory when Jesus returns.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 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, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7