A casual reading of I Peter may help us conclude that we Christians respond to all forms of suffering as a way for us to witness for Christ’s sake. NOTHING IS FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.
There is no way that God wills for anyone to suffer by virtue of living with an abuser. To remain in an abusive relationship because we think our continuing to love the abuser will some how magically change this person only witnesses to the fact that we are seriously mentally ill ourselves, and need to run, not walk, to seek help from a mental health professional. It’s said that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
So when is suffering a form of witnessing to our faith in Christ as our personal Lord and Savior? 1 Peter addressed believers in the first century who were suffering because they refused to denounce their faith in Christ. They literally suffered for Christ’s sake. I dare to say the times when most of us suffer have nothing or little to do with the faith we hold.
For us, sufferings and hardships just happen because of natural disasters or accidents or medical problems which come upon us like ambushes in the night. They just happen for no good reason, and we can allow the crisis of faith to embitter us, whereby we become cranky and crabby, snapping out to others like a live blue crab in our attempt to deal with our anger about what a bad hand God dealt us.
In time, our unresolved grief makes us become cynical and callous toward everybody and everything. We become as popular as poison ivy and wonder why people avoid us.
On the other hand, we have known Christian friends who witnessed through their sufferings and hardships as they chose to focus on that part of life that was beautiful, kind and loving. The new focus was made possible because they turned daily to the One who knows us altogether yet still loves us unconditionally and to the One who knows all about enduring and prevailing over suffering.
We are all called by God as Christians to live in the light of our hope. We are to live with great expectations that life can change. Miracles still happen. God is not finished creating and recreating.
With Him, what seems like clouds of gloom and doom can be transformed in the blink of an eye into blessings far beyond our imagination. As we live out our faith in hope, we become the winsome witnesses that God desires. Then, our very lives provide the answer to the question “What makes a person a Christian?”
THE REV. GENE NORRIS IS A PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR IN AUGUSTA.