How Important to God Is My Personal Safety?
Have you ever been in a situation where something bad happened to you physically and it got you thinking if God was really there or if He really cared? Perhaps it was a diagnosis you never expected or an accident that caused you to suffer? Fortunately, we live in a country and a time when pain and suffering can often be minimized. Praise God for Advil! However, a downside of this minimization of suffering is that when suffering and pain do come, even God’s people can begin to believe that God doesn’t care or that He isn’t paying attention. Or, some see suffering as a sign that they are doing something wrong or that they are not “good enough”.
I think it is important for us to remember that our own personal and physical safety is not at the top of God’s agenda for our lives. It is not God’s will for us to always be healthy and free from suffering. If this were so, no one would ever die! Rather, we are told the opposite. Peter writes about suffering for the will of God. Timothy writes that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Today’s text is a clear example of this. In 2 Corinthians chapter 11 Paul is writing about his own life. Remember, Paul may be the “greatest Christian” who ever lived, at least in regard to the fruit that his life seemed to bear. Read his own words about some of the physical suffering he endured:
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?
Wow! I doubt any of us can come close to matching Paul’s repeated and consistent suffering. Yet Paul doesn’t complain. Paul doesn’t see suffering as an indication of disobedience or a lack of God’s care. Paul sees suffering as God sees suffering. Suffering is a natural part of this fallen world and God’s children are not immune to it. God used Paul’s reaction to suffering to further the gospel. I’m not saying that God delights in our suffering or that God is callous toward us. He loves us with a perfect love. But, our personal safety is not as important to God as the advancement of His kingdom. If we don’t understand this, then when suffering comes, we will miss the God-given opportunity to allow God to use our suffering for His glory. If you are suffering today, please see your pain through God’s eyes. Receive God’s grace and be open for the opportunities to see your suffering be used by God for His glory.