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 (1 Peter 4:1, esv).
When was the last time the consequences of sin, with all its guilt and shame and disappointment, were raining down on your head? When was the last time you laid prostrate before God and said, in so many words, “Whatever you have to do, Lord, take it away. Change me. Purify me. Make me want You more than I’ve ever wanted my sin.” When was the last time you fervently promised and prayed for those things? “Lord, I want to do better. I’ve got to do better.”
Those are the kinds of moments when you’re ready for a battle plan—when you’re desperate enough to “arm yourselves” with the mindset of a warrior; the pivotal points in life when all you want is to be over and done with your sin—“ceased” from it—whatever the cost to your personal preferences.
So those are the moments to let the inevitably of suffering do its work . . . because what could be worse than dealing with whatever adversities you’re experiencing right now (or are sure to experience in the future), only to come out on the other side without cooperating with God’s accomplishment of His purposes? And among His purposes for your suffering (and mine) is a change in your behavior (and mine), “for whoever has suffered . . . has ceased from sin.”
Isn’t that what we want?
Some people, obviously, become even more sinful as a result of life’s difficulties. They feel as if God has let them down, and therefore they no longer believe they owe Him the honor and gratitude that leads to surrender and obedience. But suffering, when received well, is able like few other things to restrain you from sin.
Suffering clarifies your sense of eternity, for example, helping you focus on more significant and lasting priorities, making you want to live the rest of your life “no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2). It widens your range of experience, enabling you to learn from your own repeated, firsthand knowledge that a moment of pleasure is never worth a lifetime of misery. Furthermore, ultimately, it heightens the reality of coming judgment, recognizing that the day is approaching when we all must “give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). And though freely forgiven by His grace, none of His children want to live another day in rebellion against their Redeemer. They realize how soon they’ll be standing, face to face, in His presence.
Perhaps, when others see you faithfully, patiently, prayerfully—even joyfully—enduring hard times, the Lord will use the testimony of your example to influence them toward new or deepened belief in Him. And yet the primary purpose of suffering is not to make more Christians but to make better ones. Better men. Better women. A better you and a better me. He may indeed reach others through us, but we are the ones—when we suffer—that He’s wanting to reach the most deeply.
Are your ready to see some changes in your Christian lifestyle and loyalty? Then do not discount what God is working to grow within you as you go through the valley.
Lord, I am wearied today because of my sin, frustrated by my too-often failure to resist temptation. But thank You for not leaving me here to struggle alone, even at the extreme lengths of putting me in tight places—places that You know will open my eyes to what I’ve been doing. I want to serve and love You well, in humble gratitude, in selfless allegiance. Help me learn through suffering to guard my behavior, honoring my Savior, in whose name I pray, amen.