"Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right." (1 Peter 4:19, NAS95)
Peter moves to the topic of suffering and makes a statement worthy of reflection. He asks us to trust God with our souls in the midst of suffering. Two things come to mind. First, a disciple of Jesus needs to anticipate opposition from people and cultural forces. Second, in the midst of that suffering, God shapes and trains the soul to remain present to His goodness.
I must admit I don’t like the idea of suffering, even if according to the will of God. Yet, as I reflect, I notice that suffering results from me trying to live as Jesus would if He were me in my circumstance. This suffering, while it can come from culture, also results from me applying Kingdom values in my life. It’s me letting go of getting my way and entering God’s way. It’s the sort of soul shaping that takes place when I let go of my old-man habits, like anger, wrath, malice or abusive speech, and put on the new-man habits of compassion, kindness, and humility (Col. 3). I call it soul training and I have not found it easy. Yet with prayer and attentiveness to God learned over time, I’ve noticed I can catch my automatic habits of the old-man and stop them before they get out of the cage. In the learning process, I suffered both internally and externally, but in the end, I began to acquire new habits reflective of the Spirit’s presence and the new man made in the image of God. Inside-out change done in partnership with God.
I have found that as I attend to God and He reminds me of things, change creeps into life. Along the way, my interactive relationship with God has taught me growth is a grace-filled space of trial and error. God never condemns, but loves and leads. Perfection does not arrive in a day and may not at all, but improvement comes. I notice little changes where I don’t get mad at drivers, impatient with people, or where I can let someone emote all over me and choose to stay with empathy and compassion rather than move to anger and defense. Little things that I used to call suffering, but now I just recognize it as soul training.
Warmly in Christ, Doug Mitts
For Reflection: "The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned." (Psalm 34:22, NAS95)
In what areas of life are you experiencing soul training by God? What spiritual disciplines are you engaging with to pro-actively join God in the process?
What automatic habit would like to see God transform in your life? How have you talked to God about that, especially about the internal processes behind the habit?