“Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
-1 Peter 4:19
There is nothing in Scripture that should lead a Christian to believe that they will not suffer. Fact is, we will all suffer to varying degrees, that is a certainty.
But let’s, for a second, talk about something that is often experienced as suffering but really isn’t.
Like suffering, we all experience disappointment and, if we are honest, far more often than we would like. But we need to be careful that we deal with it in a godly manner, so it does not morph into the sin of discontentment.
While it isn’t fun to be disappointed, it is natural and, in a way, good for us. Yes, you may not have got the job you interviewed for, or that promotion you were certain was coming. Or you may have put your heart, body, and soul into practice and training and still not made the team. Or you may have received the dreaded rejection letter from the school of your dreams. I could go on but I’m sure you all get it by now. The point is, these things happen, and they do sting a bit, and that is OK. In fact, they can sharpen us and make us better. Didn’t get the job, for example? Work on your interview skills, try adjusting your focus, or, maybe, enroll in a class or seek out some training that will make you more qualified next time a similar job comes along. In other words, we can use disappointment to refine us and make us better. Or, perhaps, it can motivate us to self-reflect and admit that maybe we are on the wrong path or out of step with God.
I wanted to play baseball when I was a kid. Yeah, I played in the neighborhood with the other kids (back when playing ball in the street was a thing) but I really wanted to be on a team and play for real. But no matter how many times I tried out, I never made the cut, and every single time I was crushed. Crushed, that is, until I realized that baseball was not my gift and playing on a team was not in the cards for me. My love of the game didn’t change any, but my hopes, dreams, and aspirations did. I continued to play street ball and played on several softball teams over the years but my life as a would be Major League star was over, and that was OK.
I could say the same thing about my plans to conquer the business world when I retired from the military. I worked hard to earn an MBA before I retired, crafted the perfect resume, did endless research on how to search for, find, and land the dream job. And then I searched, applied, interviewed ad nauseum and never got a call. Day after day after day I got up early, put on a suit, printed resumes, and drove all over town knocking on doors, to no avail. I did eventually land a job doing what I did not think I would be doing and am content now but it was a tough several months to be sure. Actually, it was beyond tough and now, through the lens of hindsight, and I like to think a little more wisdom, I clearly understand why.
Granted, a few months of unemployment would be understandably tough for most people but I let my disappointment slip into discontentment and I lived in that sinful state continuously until things started going my (not God’s) way.
My problem was that I did not see that God was ordering my steps and that He was sovereign over everything, including me not getting what I wanted. In a general sense I never completely lost sight of the fact that God is sovereign but, for a season, I elevated my hopes, dreams, arrogance, pride, desires, and plans over His will for me and it caused me to become angry and bitter with Him and almost everyone else in my life. I have no ability to spin it or describe it in any other way other than that I was woefully discontent with my own estate and living in self-righteousness and pride that said I knew better than God did about what was best for me. And, I was acting like I was the victim of a gross injustice.
My point in writing all of this is this.
You may indeed be disappointed with what God is doing in your life right now and that, although the pain of disappointment is real, is OK. We are, after all, imperfect. What is not OK however, is to lose sight of the fact that you are where you are, doing what you are doing, and experiencing what you are experiencing at this moment because all are perfectly in line with God’s eternal decrees.
As the verse at the beginning of this post (as well as many others) declare, you will suffer. But be careful not to let setbacks that could be ordained to refine you and point you toward God be the cause of you sliding into sinful discontentment and needless self-induced suffering that is not from God and something you were never meant to experience.