How should believers respond to painful providences? 1 Peter 5:6-14 provides four clear instructions that help suffering saints keep their head and heart on track.
1. Care-Free Submission
Because God cares for us, and is absolutely sovereign over pain, we are instructed by Peter to submit to heavy trials. We can rest assured, in the manner of Joseph and Job, who shared the yoke of Christ, that after casting down we must. at last, be lifted up.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you - 1 Peter 5:6-7.
This focus of this text is not primarily care and worry - the key theme being treated is submission in humility. Why are we so prone to worry, panic, moan, act, instead of bearing the Cross? Usually this is due to lack of grasp, or faith, in the care or power of a good, wise, mighty, loving God. We rush to rash solutions. We lean on our own strength. It is a spiritual mis-step to wriggle and chafe under a painful heaven-sent yoke: how often we forfeit God's intended benefit - that is a sign of self-reliant pride which must learn to submit. The better, discerning, course is to bow to providence and let trial do its work (producing a harvest of prayer, trust, witness, holiness, grace, endurance and so forth) - gold faith will be refined, and pained disciples restored in time. Was Job doubly blessed? Was Joseph in government? At God's right hand, is our Saviour now enthroned? Here then is the first step in the pathway of pain: bow and wait!
2. Ready Resistance
Vigilance is vital because Satan, if on a leash, is also on the look out for his next feast. Constantly on the prowl, eying up his prey, the Tempter targets our weaknesses and must surely trick and trap unless our guard is up. God's armor must be worn. Gospel weapons must be used - unlike Peter, caught napping in the Garden, who failed to watch and pray, peril awaits saints who neglect the means of grace supplied in the milk and meat of God's Enduring Word - surely they will succumb, for a time, to the Devil's lies and lures.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith - 1 Peter 5:8-9a.
How often, under attack, anger and gossip catch out - fellowship is ruined by those, half-awake, who did not seek enabling to restrain lips and lusts. In times of trial, when the furnace is turned up, at work, home or church, remember in the heat, the malice of Satan's craft, and be sure to shore up defenses - ask the Father to give more fruit of the Spirit of Christ to keep you alert and take discerning steps, lovingly, to think, speak and act: seek abundant grace to set a seal on your minds, ears, eyes, tongues and hearts.
3. Optimistic Patience
Because God is totally in-charge, full of help, honors every promise, and is extremely kind to us, saints must trust, having stood the test (and passed), that the Cosmic Lord will grant and send relief:
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen - 1 Peter 5:10-11.
Whatever loss was suffered, it will be restored; whatever weakness was exposed will be addressed and superseded by strength; where wobbles occurred, equilibrium is regained - souls are established in firmness and fortitude.
What encouragement this is, when we fear the flames might scorch, to know that every perplexity or persecution endured will ultimately work for good: being cast in a furnace is not, in actual fact, a sign that you are abandoned - Christ was left alone, in Calvary's three dark hours so, like Daniel and his friends, mouths might be shut, clothes remain unsigned, and not one hair harmed or consumed by dens or ovens.
4. Suffering Normalized
Peter has been at pains to remind these scattered Christians of the dispersion that under no circumstances must they consider that their sufferings strange - the opposite is true, they are part and parcel of fellowship with Christ: they are evidence not of the Lord's rejection but rather of divine ownership of their lives and case. Knowing that this is just discipleship "par-for-the-course" emerges as a key aspect of success as pilgrims pass through stress - the family of God is daily called to bear their Cross:
..knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world ..By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son - 1 Peter 5:9b, 12-13.
Identical kinds of mistreatment had befallen Messiah's followers everywhere - His brotherhood worldwide, as brother Silvanus has confirmed, along with suffering saints located in Babylonish Rome, indicate such trials of faith accompany God's true saving grace. So if God is always with us, and Christ is ever near, we are ringed by hard-pressed saints from every tribe and tongue - heroes present and past stand around to praise, cheer, pray and display those healed scars, suffered for Jesus' sake, and survived by God's amazing grace. Gospel grief (or various degrees) is a common, shared, trait, of those in union with Christ.
Are you getting it "in the neck" or "going through the mill" of perplexing, distressing or terrifying Satan-incited, flesh-provoked or Loving Father-permitted pain? Child of God submit calmly, resist courageously, endure positively and accept normality - as you read, wait, guard and pray, the Holy Spirit testifies to Gospel glory and grace: gleaming gold-bullion faith will greet the return of Christ.