Christ-Centered Suffering

1 Peter 3:18-22

Beloved:
Christ suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
who had once been disobedient
while God patiently waited in the days of Noah
during the building of the ark,
in which a few persons, eight in all,
were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
It is not a removal of dirt from the body
but an appeal to God for a clear conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
who has gone into heaven
and is at the right hand of God,
with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Fit in Your Faith Today: Focus on the words in bold and let them assure you of Christ’s love for you. Although we are unrighteous, we are saved through our baptism and the fact that Christ died for our sins. Our lives on earth are not easy; we suffer, we sin, we seek repentance and we ask for forgiveness constantly. It’s a process, but as long as we believe and worship our Savior, we can be assured our suffering is only temporary.

Pursue Righteousness

1 Timothy 6:11

But you, Timothy, are a man of God, so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 

St. Paul has a final message to Timothy in his letter to him. But the letter is also addressed to all of us!

This is a prime example of picturing the author speaking directly to you when you read scripture. (Some translations say “But you, man of God,”)

The first thing I noticed is Paul’s language here. I love his use of the word “pursue.” And he uses the word “run” from evil. These action verbs definitely give us the impression that Paul was extremely passionate about how he viewed Christian life. There’s no sitting idly by and watching the world around us. Paul wants us to be active participants!

So how do we become active in our faith?

  • Speak up! Maybe you join a committee for the pro-life movement. Perhaps you start a group yourself dedicated to feeding the hungry or helping others less fortunate in your neighborhood. If there’s something you are passionate about like a social concern or health and safety of others, start your own group or committee dedicated to awareness.
  • Run! Training your body is just as important as training your mind. If you want to become active in your faith, you need to study up on it. Open your Bible, read the scriptures, go to mass, become involved in a bible study, write down and share your thoughts with others. Get them to “Train” with you!
  • Sacrifice for good! Giving up something doesn’t have to mean suffering for God. Think of sacrificing something like time. Volunteer your time to help someone else. Do you use social media as a break from reality? Give up the internet and use that time to do something nice for someone else like writing them a note, praying for them, or making them food.

Fit in Your Faith Today: There are plenty of ways to stop being idle and start to being active. Stand up for what you believe in. Stop making excuses for doing works that you know St. Paul would not consider “righteous” or “godly.” Get creative and think of your own way you can run from the evil and pursue righteousness that will contribute to your faith.

 

Perseverance in times of Struggle

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Do you know those people who always seem to have a smile on their face? They seem to have a cheerful outlook on life, even as things around them might be falling apart. I often wonder how those people live their life like that! I admire them in one way. But on another hand I think, “Are they in denial about what’s going on?”

Then I read this verse from James and think, No, these people just have a great amount of faith. They know that life isn’t supposed to be easy. It can be unfair. You can be dealt a “bad hand.” But guess what? You get through it. With faith, with a good attitude, with support from others to keep you going, you get through your trials.

Testing our faith develops perseverance, according to James. I hear the word perseverance and I always picture a soldier going through bootcamp. Or a runner racing to the end of the finish line. I suppose I picture something physical like this instead of mental. But we know most of our “trials” in life are mentally and spiritually demanding, too. Like when we lose a loved one. Or lose a job. Or having difficulty in a relationship.

All these trials will test our faith. How will we approach this test? With a joyful attitude like our friends in Christ? Or with a poor and “life is unfair!” attitude?

When I hear the word perseverance, I also think of another scripture verse that I love.

Romans 5:3-5 (New International Version Translation)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

So we exult or rejoice in our sufferings! Those are our smiley joyful cheerful friends. And that has to be us too. Why? Because when we get through this trial, this challenge, this difficulty that we are facing, we produce perseverance, and character and from all of that comes what? Hope. Love that little 4 letter word, don’t you?

Fit in your Faith Today: What’s the latest trial you are facing and how is it testing your faith? What are you doing to persevere through? Does it help to know that after all is said and done, you will develop your faith even deeper? Put on a cheerful face as you tackle your latest challenge, knowing the finish line is someone who is, as James says, “complete and not lacking anything.”

Thoughts on Suffering from Charles Sidoti and Rabbi Akiva Feinstein

I came across this blog post from Charles Sidoti and just had to share.

Sidoti as well as Rabbi Akiva Feinstein share their thoughts on suffering and the questions we should be asking when tragic events occur in our lives.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The span of a human life is simply too brief to achieve any meaningful understanding of the ways of the universe.  Just as we cannot judge a movie by arriving in the middle and leaving before the end, we cannot judge God’s master plan for us or for the world.  It is only with the passage of significant amounts of time that we could hope to gather even a measure of illumination.

 

  • It is perfectly natural to ask “Why?” but our response needs to evolve from there if we are to grow spiritually.

 

  • It occurred to me then that our own suffering, if we could learn to accept it in some measure into our lives, could serve a similar purpose for us.  Even as the sabal (the porter), cheerfully carried his heavy load knowing that he would be compensated, we can be buoyed by the knowledge that our sevel (our suffering) is not in vain.  We can live with confidence that our suffering has a higher purpose and represents an opportunity for growth, even though that purpose and opportunity may not be apparent to us.

 

  • Our personal response to suffering is our responsibility, and we do have a choice.

 

  • We will discover that, although in a different way from joy and happiness, the suffering that naturally comes our way has its part to play in our spiritual growth and in our becoming the loving person that God is calling us to be.

I would highly suggest reading the entire post (it’s not that long) to get the full effect. I was truly moved by the Rabbi’s explanation of the porter and the connection to our suffering. Think of the transformations that could occur in people everywhere if we view suffering not so much as a burden but as an opportunity for growth.

Fit in your Faith Today: Read today’s blog post from Charles Sidoti and reflect on the suffering that you have experienced and endured in your life. Ask yourself how you can see these “tragedies” as “opportunities” to grow in your faith.