DAILY DEVOTION - JUNE 4
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And 'If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?' Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
1 Peter 4:15–19
Sometimes the most powerful lessons can come from the most unexpected places.
As I sat in the movie theater watching Frozen II with my daughters, I was struck by the powerful message of one of the songs. In the film, the younger sister, Anna, has been dragged far from her familiar world into a deep cavern, both literally and figuratively. All the people she loves are far away. All the comforts she once knew are gone. She begins singing the saddest little song, starting with just a whisper made shaky through tears, as she acknowledges how hopeless she feels. Then, her ache grows into a quiet resolve to just do the next right thing...
I’ve seen dark before, but not like this This is cold, this is empty, this is numb The life I knew is over; the lights are out Hello, darkness: I’m ready to succumb... But you must go on And do the next right thing...
Just do the next right thing Take a step, step again It is all that I can to do The next right thing I won’t look too far ahead It’s too much for me to take But break it down to this next breath, this next step This next choice is one that I can make So I’ll walk through this night Stumbling blindly toward the light And do the next right thing...
Perhaps you can relate to the lyrics of this song and the emotions behind them. There are times when what’s happening to us is “too much” to take and we can’t look any further than right in front of us, to the next step. I think Peter would approve of this song, not because it is theologically perfect, but because it addresses the raw emotions of suffering and sets forth practical wisdom in keeping with 4:12–19. The pain and sorrow that Christians experience is real and sometimes all we can do is take a step toward doing “the next right thing.”
When we go through trials, God tests us, not because he doesn’t know what we’re going to do, but in order that we would know him more deeply, that our faith would grow strong and pure. When you’re going through a fiery ordeal, something so grievous and so painful you can hardly breathe, something so beyond your control that you feel completely helpless, you question, “How am I going to make it?”
I had a season of serial losses in my life that lasted for about three years. I lost my home and multiple loved ones, including my beloved campus pastor, Dustin, who had led me to real faith in Jesus. All this while my life was going through worlds of transition. I felt like I could not catch my breath. I began going to a counselor to unpack all the grief I’d been carrying, and she helped me start my healing journey. But just as I turned the corner emotionally, she died very unexpectedly (and, at that time, it felt like my progress died with her). By God’s grace, I continued (and still continue) on my healing path, and now I am on the other side of those serial losses, though I will always grieve my loved ones. I will never forget how lost, hurt, and alone I felt when I was in the midst of it.
This kind of experience is humbling. It reminds you how fragile you are and that your problems really need a big Savior. Often we have no idea how long we’re going to be in a place of suffering—we don’t see any relief ahead. We survive simply by doing the next right thing.
If and when the trial lifts and you find yourself reviving and noticing that some of the pain is behind you, you realize you could not have gotten through it without the mercy of Jesus. It is in places of such vulnerability that we truly experience the persistent, upholding, tender love of God. We will never be strangers to suffering in this life, but we can rest in the knowledge that God knows, sees, loves, and promises to never leave.
Let’s talk for a moment about the kind of suffering God does not want us to incur: suffering because we are guilty of sinning. As we learned from 2:20, there’s no credit if we’ve earned our punishment and are merely suffering from the consequences of our choices. Verse 4:15 confirms this: if you’re going to suffer, don’t do it “as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or [even] as a meddler.” Now, the first three examples in this list are self-explanatory; they are all obviously heinous. But why does Peter add “meddler?”
Well, there does seem to be an order here, from most offensive to least, particularly since evildoer can be translated as “criminal” and the Greek renders the last example, “or even as a meddler.” Nonetheless, there’s no honor in appointing yourself the overseer of someone else’s business.
As innocuous as it might seem, meddling sows discord and divisiveness, which affects the whole community of God. It shows a lack of respect for people and boundaries, as well as arrogance, and it can taint the Church’s witness to the outside world.
So Christians, Peter is saying, as you are suffering in this world, continue doing right and don’t add any sort of guilt from wrongdoing onto your suffering.
Peter then turns to the topic of judgment. Judgment will start with the Christian community, the household of God. The chosen priests and holy people of God should not be the ones disobeying God or disregarding their neighbors. Judgment will start with those who are to love and observe the Law to the fullest.
Suffering is not an excuse to disregard God or his law. In fact, having so much beyond our control should thrust us into more deeply trusting a gracious God while we suffer. There’s no shame in this kind of suffering. There’s no shame in the tears of those crying out to God and trusting him as they endure. There’s no shame in looking forward to Jesus making all of this right.
So, when it seems all hope is gone, when life is confusing and you don’t know what to do, when it’s hard and downright painful to even survive, trust God, lean on his strength, and simply seek to do the next right thing.