Suffering with a soft heart

1 Peter; Hebrews 1-6

Last night my family put the moon to bed, so I skipped my reading and blog and am doing double duty again today.  It seems that the closer I get to the end of this Bible Reading Challenge, I’m doing that more and more…I think it has more to do with the busy time of year.  Yet I continue to march onward!

The theme of 1 Peter is all about suffering.  I woke this morning with a sore neck (from watching the eclipse, I’m sure) and sore arms and shoulders.  Fibromyalgia flare ups are still happening with me despite my treatments…it makes me wonder what it would be like without them!  Lack of sleep — as I had last night — leads to more pain.

Yet as I read 1 Peter this afternoon all those thoughts faded into the background.  Everything Peter wrote is counterintuitive to everything we know about being human.  We don’t like suffering or hardship and do everything possible to avoid it.  I am queen of hardship avoidance, so I should know!  We grumble about headlines about Christian persecution around the world and in our own country…but grumbling ought not to be our response.

Grumbling is a wordly response.  Insulting those who insult us is a worldly reaction.  Taking it closer to home, yelling back when I am yelled at is a wordly reaction, not a godly one.

Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. 10 For the Scriptures say,“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
11 Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”

Searching for peace ought to be my aim.  I might take this theme up as my own personal resolution for the coming year.

And if we do suffer when we do good?  If we are persecuted by the state or by those who disdain Jesus…if intellectual humanists scoff at us or deny us tenure because we are openly Christians…then Peter’s word for us is to never give up.  Never give ground.  Keep on doing good!

14 So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian,[e] for then the glorious Spirit of God[f] rests upon you.[g]15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! 17 For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? 18 And also,

“If the righteous are barely saved,
what will happen to godless sinners?”[h]

19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

In the first six chapters of Hebrews, however, the message is a cautionary one.  We are warned to guard our hearts and the truth we have learned about Jesus.  Over and over again (at least three times), we are warned to not harden our hearts towards God.

“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts.”

That is why the Holy Spirit says,

“Today when you hear his voice,
8 don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled,

2 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.[f] Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. 15 Remember what it says:

“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled.”[g]

Keeping a heart that is soft towards the Lord, regardless of my circumstances, is another resolution for me to ponder as this year draws to a close and a new one begins.

 

 

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