Good Suffering and Bad Suffering

We live in an age where our advances in technology and medicine have gone a long way to remove inconvenience and suffering from we humans. People are living longer than ever before. In fact, it seems soon living to 100 is going to be the norm among us. We are healthier, have better medical treatments, have technology that makes our lives easier, and gives us a higher standard of living that practically anytime in history. Things are great, aren’t they?

Well, yes and no. While our advances in medicine and technology have given us longer lives and more leisure time, we also have fallen into the delusion that all suffering is “bad.” And that has produced a very dangerous moment in human history. If all suffering is bad then one way to stop suffering is to remove the sufferer! What? In fact, this idea is getting so popular in many modern countries that there is a strong move to make euthanasia a “right!”

But look at our Lesson today from St. Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:1-5:

BELOVED, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischiefmaker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “if the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

St. Peter says there’s “good” suffering and “bad” suffering. And look how he differentiates the two.

Good Suffering flows from those times when a society is made so uncomfortable by followers of Christ that they try to get rid of them or marginalize them or make them appear “ignorant” or “out of date.” That suffering reveals the glory of God. That suffering shows the spirit of God is upon you. How? You may ask. Because when you suffer for doing Good or being Faithful, you suffer well. You endure. You don’t give up simply because life has gotten difficult or you’re not popular. And you are able to be at peace in the middle of suffering because your soul is in the safe Hands of a “faithful Creator.”

But Bad Suffering flows from bad choices and bad living. If you suffer because of evil actions you’re suffering is self-inflicted and the natural consequences of being a “mischiefmaker” are self-evident!

Either way, suffering reveals whether it is “good” or “bad” precisely as a revelation of our hearts. As St. Peter declares “the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God” and this revelation of hearts isn’t news to God but absolutely necessary for us to know ourselves. This “judgment” isn’t based on rule-keeping or rule-breaking as much as it is a manifestation of the hearts of the people themselves. In the end, dear one, there is no hiding from your truest self. Life has a way of revealing who you really are and who you really love!

Today, is your suffering “good” or “bad?” Is it coming from outside yourself because of your faithfulness to God or is it flowing from your own hands in your choices and your actions? If we are ever going to be able to stand in the light of an unvarnished revelation of ourselves, we are going to have to learn how to be Orthodox on Purpose!

4 comments:

  1. well, my suffering continues because of bad choices so I guess this is what I deserve so I should remain in despair? I’m at the end of my rope and all I can see is the bad choices I’ve made the past 67 years and my prayers seem to drop to the ground.

    1. Gary,

      Actually, the Gospel of Christ invites you to embrace and repent of the bad choices SO THAT you can escape despair. So, you’re halfway there as you confess your mistakes. Now it’s on to embracing God’s forgiveness and escaping despair because any suffering here is, by its very essence, temporary.

      1. Hi there, I too have made so many bad choices in my life. Being 76 it seems a bit overwhelming but when I chose to have Jesus Christ in my life I realize that it outweighs all my bad choices and I think of the scripture that says God will turn the darkness before you into light the rough places in to level ground these are the things he will do and he never will forsake you. So there you go hope. God bless

    2. Gary,

      Be strong in the Faith you hold. Playing old records in our heads of past mistakes, out-right sins, and especially grievances against someone, is something the Evil One loves to have us do, and he will introduce any chance for us to ruminate. But Father Barnabas has guided you to the way out: taking an honest account of our past sins and making a contrite, heart-felt confession to our Lord, Who is ever “Faithful and Just to Forgive our sins, and to Cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)”. The “father of lies” (Satan), works for our pessimism, for a perpetual “glass half empty” look at life, so to speak. But Gary, the war has been won already, we just need to be steadfast in our trusting in the Gospel during the battles, so that there is the joy St. Peter promises: a permanent “half full glass”, optimism, as we go through time.

      We may be subject to time, but we need not be subject to the world’s systems (John 15:19, John 17:14-16, 1 John 2:15 and Romans 12:2).

      Gary, I’m on this journey too, and I’ll be praying for you. No man need be an island to himself, and prayer opens up vistas communication with our Lord and with one another in the body of Christ. “Be careful for nothing, but in EVERYTHING, prayer and supplication with thanksgiving , make your requests known unto God . And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7, and please read verse 8 for guidance). I bet that many of those prayers you think have “dropped to ground” have been listened to and have and/or will be answered, but we have to do our part, and that is submitting our hearts and “renewed” minds to the will of the Father….when that happens, the “abundant life” Jesus promised us in John 10:10 begins here and now, not just in eternity.

      Praying for peace and joy on your journey!

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