Reflections

The Suffering of Light

Ever thought about what causes the greatest pain? Could it be the attempt to do the greatest good?

As part of my personal soul care I follow the Life Journal Bible Reading Plan and today I read the biblical letter of 1 Peter.  If you take the time to read the letter you’ll see this strange tension of suffering and doing good.  In fact, three short verses jumped from the page for me today.  First the author says that as the people of God, I am chosen, I belong to God and as such I am to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Later he says “live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called” (1 Peter 3:8-9) – literally to this you were kaleo.

So far so good.  These are attitudes and virtues I would like to possess and manifest.  But the tension is found in pretty much every other verse in this letter.  The tension that this type of life will actually create suffering in your life.  Later in the letter, the author says “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16) and he closes that chapter with “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19).

Really?  My suffering for doing good, for being kind, for being compassionate is part of God’s will?

Well, I would almost write this letter off as a self-deluded justification of personal impoverishment by a religious fanatic IF what was written wasn’t so frequently true, confirmed globally in the lives of simple folks trying to live kaleo.  Want to test it?  Try defending the cause of the marginalized in our culture – whether that is finding housing for the homeless or championing the value of traditional marriage.  You may be surprised at the backlash.  But don’t be.

If God has called you, there is only one way to live and that is as a person of Light – God’s light; seen in your life as humility and compassion and sympathy.  And here’s what you need to remember, darkness doesn’t like light.  Period.  If you’ve ever been asleep in a dark room and someone walks in and wakes you with a bright flashlight, what is your typical response? “Turn that off!”  Right.  And what happens if the person holding the light doesn’t turn it off but turns it up?  You seek to remove the flashlight from their hand.  Right?

Well, the same will happen for each of us who, in living kaleo, shine as Light. The darkness will seek to extinguish you.  Stand firm, my fellow traveler.  The suffering you experience is an opportunity for your light to shine brighter; it’s simply a test to see what your wattage really is.  Or as the author of 1 Peter says: “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise. . .” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

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