Suffering in times of crisis
One of the most vital lessons we need to learn in life, is how to handle suffering. Whatever the source of it may be, this can be a real challenge to us. At present, suffering may be caused by the virus that is sweeping this world, the thought that it may strike those we love, or the worry to make ends meet. It might be, the possibility of losing our jobs and the anxiety about the future of those we love. But suffering goes to the very heart of the Christian faith. 1 Peter 5, gives us 3 pointers to grow through suffering.
1. Flourishing through suffering by humbling yourself before God. (1 Pe. 5:6-7). Someone said that worry is like a small stream of fear that wonders through the mind and slowly cuts off the channel through which other thoughts and anxieties are drained. Our worries and anxieties can distract us from God and our fears can eat us up diverting our thoughts into dead ends. During this time, our faith feels under incredible pressure. But what we are called to do in times like this is: humble ourselves. Because at the heart of anxiety is the foolish idea that we can handle things on our own. This self confidence is nothing else than pride. If today we are anxious in the storm of this crisis, then we should go to the One who has come through all the storms in life and has been victorious. The journey might be rough but when we bring ourselves and those we love to God and talk to him about the things that are in our heart, we can trust Christ will see us through.We might be inclined to question God’s sovereignty over these events. Even asking, where is God in the coronavirus. And we might doubt his love for us and ask why this is happening to me and my family. I want to reassure you that God is not sleeping at the wheel, he wasn’t when the virus came. God is sovereign and God cares for you. Are you ready to bow your knee and affirm his love and care even in the middle of this crisis? In this time, it will be good to remind ourselves of our lack of faith and pray that simple prayer, Lord I believe, help my unbelief. (Mk. 9:24).
2. Flourishing through suffering by resisting the devil. (1 Pe. 5:8)
This verse is a call to wake up and be alert. There is a lion on the prowl, and he will eat you for supper if you don’t act. God does not want you to be careless. The Bible calls us to be sober and alert to resist the devil’s attacks. Don’t make a couple of very common mistakes. Firstly, thinking that the devil is everywhere and secondly, ignoring him and thinking you are too smart for him. The devil is a formidable enemy, so don’t think that you have the power to defeat him by yourself. Christ is the one who is powerful enough to stand against him. He is the one who defeated him before at the cross and His resurrection proved it. James said resist him and he will flee from you. (Jas. 4:7). So, first let’s bow down before God and then we will be able to stand with our armour on and face the devil.
3. Flourishing through suffering by trusting in the Sovereign Lord. (1 Pe. 5:10 -11)
Peter is saying, God has not forgotten you in the middle of the virus. He is the God of all grace who calls you into his eternal glory in Christ. So, we can trust that He will use this time for His purposes. If you are still wondering, what should be done in this time of crisis, the best advice I can give you is: trust in the Lord. Put your life and the lives of those you love into his hands. The message that runs through this passage and across the bible is this, put our lives and hopes in the living God to deal with the problems we will face in life.
As a way of finishing, let me tell you this. Firstly, bring the crisis into focus, although at present it may seem that this time will never pass, it will. In terms of eternity this is but a short time. Secondly, bring God into focus. His grace is never going to run out. He gives grace to the humble and nothing can separate us from His love. Thirdly, put God’s calling into focus. He called you, you did not come to him by your own strength and effort. He called you and He didn’t do this to condemn you, He called you to save you. Trust God to bring you through. Lastly, put God’s purpose into focus. He himself will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. A crisis like the coronavirus will burn away the rust and refine the gold. So, the Sovereign Lord will use this crisis to establish you in your faith and to equip you to serve others. You and I can trust him in this process.
Rev. Peter Breckwoldt is the Vicar of St John’s Wimborne. He is a trustee and council member of the Latimer Trust. This is an abridged version made by the Latimer Trust of the sermon preached at St John’s Wimborne on Sunday 29 March 2020, used with permission of Rev. Peter Breckwoldt. The full version was posted in facebook and can be found in this link.