Holy Week Devotional: Suffering has its uses
1 Peter 4:1–8 (ESV) 1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does. 7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
Suffering has its uses. Peter says that whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin. What he means is that suffering helps us not to put all our hopes in this world. Without suffering, we would enjoy our lives in this world so much, we could easily forget that there is a world that is coming, the Kingdom of heaven, which will be better by far. Forgetting God and heaven, we would spend all our time fulfilling our earthly desires. We would live for pleasure or worldly gain, as most people in the world do. But when we get sick, or experience a financial setback, or endure a global shutdown where we cannot do the things we used to enjoy doing, we have the opportunity to be weaned a bit from our attachment to the things of this world. In this state of being reduced, confined and constrained, we have the opportunity to become more spiritually free. When Jesus was buried, there was that day in between his crucifixion and resurrection. No one can say for sure what he did during that time. There are hints in 1 Peter and elsewhere that Jesus might have preached to those in the realm of the dead. How fascinating! There is more to the universe than this material existence. If Good Friday is a day of agony, and Easter Sunday is a day of ecstasy, then Holy Saturday is a day of mystery. And Jesus entered it through suffering and death. If I have one hope in all this suffering, it’s that it would teach us to forsake a worldly perspective on life. We were too preoccupied with worldly pleasures and ambitions and activity to the neglect of our spiritual life and the Kingdom of God. And if this present suffering produces a more spiritually-minded church and society, then it would have been worth it. Not all suffering is bad. Not all suffering is good, either, just the suffering that makes us holy. And that’s up to us, to our mindset. May we suffer with the same mindset as Jesus.
Father God, suffering is sometimes strong medicine. It tastes bad. But in the right dose it can do us good. May this present suffering not lead to death. May it instead weaken our flesh and strengthen our spirits. Change our mindset. Help us to view the situation positively, as painful as it is for some of us. Above all help us to grow from this experience to become more like Jesus. In his name we pray, Amen.