Suffering for a Little While

1 Peter 1: 3-7 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 

If you have competed in sports you understand the concept of feeling uncomfortable.  Whether it’s doing a core workout, hill workout, or running lines, I’m certain you remember the feeling of pain.  Your brain sends messages saying you need to stop or at least slow down.  These messages are significantly premature, so an athlete needs to learn to ignore them and push themselves so that their body is able to grow stronger and faster over time.  On the day of competition, an athlete must likewise ignore the messages and push themselves to achieve the most out of their body and mind on competition day.  One strategy I used, and in fact still use today during an unpleasant workout, is that I remind myself that this suffering is just for a little while.  “This interval is 90 seconds; that is just a blink of time in this day; you can make it through this.”

In Peter’s writing to the early Christian church, he used a similar approach.  He recognized that true Christians would necessarily suffer for their beliefs.  12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  (1 Peter 4:12-13).  And then Peter used the concept of time to encourage the early Christians:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11)

Consider all the messages Peter had for the believers in his letter.  Firstly, we can’t be naïve; we need to be alert.  There is a very real spiritual realm of evil, namely the devil and his followers.  He has one goal – destruction.  As a believer, he can’t take away your salvation (John 10:28), but he can make life miserable for you, and he can detour you from the path God has prepared for you, making you ineffective for him, and perhaps hurting the ones whom God has placed around you.  Secondly, we are able to resist the devil.  In fact, we are promised that if we resist, he has no choice but to flee (James 4:7).  Thirdly, we are in very good company.  You are not the only believer suffering; believers throughout the world are undergoing similar suffering.  Fourthly, your suffering is for “a little while”.  When you consider it in the context of eternity, your entire life on earth is but a “mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).  You will be spending eternity with your loving father where there will be no more mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).  Finally, God “will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast”.  Consider that for a moment; the creator of the universe is so concerned about you, that he himself is going to personally restore you, and he will use your struggles to make you stronger and firmer.

The next time you are going through struggles, bring out the athlete inside of you and say:  “With the power of God I will survive this time of suffering, for it is only a very small moment in time.  He himself will restore me and make me stronger if I persevere!”

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