Biblical Advice for Difficult Situations

Sound Words graphicNot surprisingly, people often turn to the Bible for help when life is difficult. In the face of a bitter divorce, the unexpected death of a loved one, or crushing financial pressure, people look to God’s Word for relief. Peter writes his first epistle to Christians who are suffering terribly—he calls their ordeal a “fiery trial” (4:12). Often times our difficulties are our own doing, but these believers’ only crime was trusting Jesus Christ. Peter’s response is rather unexpected: he offers no sweeping assurances of brighter days ahead, no programs of financial aid for victims of persecution, and no empathetic pity. Rather, he repeatedly points the suffering readers to Jesus Christ and his suffering (1:11, 19; 2:4, 21–24; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1).

As he sums up an extended discussion of Christian suffering, Peter offers this conclusion: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:19). Here I see three lines of advice for difficult situations.

Your suffering is God’s will.
The fact that suffering is “according to God’s will” fairly jumps off the page. Although his readers were suffering severely and unfairly, Peter assures them that difficulties do not take God by surprise; rather, he has ordained and designed them so that the glory of Jesus Christ will radiate from our lives (cf. 4:13). While we commonly assume that God’s will is for every Christian to be healthy, financially secure, and emotionally carefree, Peter says that his readers’ suffering is God’s will.

Your greatest need in suffering is to trust a sovereign God.
Since God is sovereign, Peter entreats us to place our entire lives in the hands of our faithful Creator. Many otherwise obedient Christians jettison all biblical principles, attitudes, and priorities when difficulty comes, as if God’s sovereignty works in “auto-pilot mode” but must be switched over to “manual control” for tricky situations. The same sovereign God who created the entire universe and maintains all things for his glory is perfectly capable of governing your life in chaotic times (5:10–11). Trust God with your life. Let God be God.

Your responsibility during suffering is to obey God’s Word.
But what are we to do? Surely trusting God does not mean we hide in our bedrooms with the shades drawn and the covers over our heads, does it? It does not. As we trust the sovereign God who has ordained our suffering, we should continue to “do good.” We ought to live holy lives (1:13–16; 2:11–12) that are obedient to authority (2:13–3:6) and marked by love for one another (3:8; 4:8–11).

Difficult times call for biblical measures. Trust God and do good.

April/May 2009

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