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The Promise in the Suffering

Based on 7th Sunday of Easter readings

One thing that surprises me almost daily about mothering teens and young adults is how much suffering it entails. In my days (and nights) of endless nursing and diapers and physical labor, I imagined that these later parenting years would be filled with lingering over lofty conversations with beautifully raised children.

Don’t get me wrong, I think my big kids are splendid. But boy, are these days hard, fraught with the suffering that comes when we try to live out the call to make disciples of all nations, beginning very deliberately with the children God gave us. The lesson of the middle years of mothering is that suffering and joy are intertwined, and rarely is there a moment of joy that is not shining its glory against the shadow of its concomitant suffering.

Saint Peter knew Christians share in His suffering, and he wants us to know that we can rejoice with confidence even in the unexpectedly hard times. He tells us that suffering is part of God’s purposeful plan to test us, to refine us by fire. Everything is inside out in God’s economy. Saint Peter assures us that in our most difficult moments, we will see His most glorious majesty. He writes, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

There will be great trials. And we can rejoice in them?! It seems ludicrous to say that we are to count our suffering as joy, except . . . God. God turns it all on end. He allows us to suffer “as a Christian.” The verses just beyond today’s reading promise that all who believe will be tested by suffering, and God will both judge us and purify us in the fires of hard times.

He uses pain to purge what He hates. Do we remain faithful, proving and strengthening our faith? Do we learn more about His nature in the midst of our sorrow?

We should, because there is a great promise just beyond the truth that we will suffer.

As a result, those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.”(1 Peter 4:19)

What a beautiful image! The next time you are on your knees in sorrow, wondering where God is in suffering, hand your soul over to Him. Then see what happens next.

Elizabeth Foss is a wife, the mother of nine, and a grandmother. She finds the cacophony of big family imperfection to be the perfect place to learn to walk in the unforced rhythms of grace. You can learn more about her here

3 Comments

  • Reply
    Holly M Barrios-DiNardo
    May 28, 2017 at 9:21 am

    What a beautiful reminder to keep our hearts turned to God during our trials. I wonder if the phrase ‘He uses pain to purge what He hates’ could be explained. I’ve never thought or felt that suffering was a sort of punishment/refinement for what ‘He hates’. This comes across and God hates me in my weakness/sinfulness, therefore, He is making me suffer [to please Him]. I thought suffering was to humble us, to purge sin from us, to help us be empathic to others, to make us more dependent on Him. I’m interested to read what this new (to me) means, or perhaps, I’ve totally misread and misunderstood the statement.

  • Reply
    Patty
    May 29, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    Thank you!

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    May 29, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    I’m pretty sure that Elizabeth meant that God uses suffering to purge sin, which is what he hates. God does not hate us, even in our sinfulness and weakness !

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