Reading: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21–25
Christians suffer. Life in a sinful world and among a sinful people is going to involve trials and tribulations. Believers often bear the brunt of personal, and at times, cruel, persecution. It may be at home; it can often be at work. During such times there is a temptation to react in kind, that is, “to give as good as you get.” This is wrong. It is contrary to the spirit of Christ. Peter stresses the point that if we suffer simply because we belong to Christ, we must suffer it patiently, take it graciously, accept it, and endure it, for this is right in the sight of God. We must not react to those who sin against us by committing sin ourselves.
The secret to successfully coping with suffering is to consider Christ. No one suffered like Christ suffered, and in His endurance of those sufferings we have an example to follow. Christ suffered great agony and shame patiently. He bore His suffering with great meekness. He endured the suffering by committing Himself to His Father, trusting Him in that day of great sorrow, and He suffered these things with submission. Christ did not respond to His suffering by sinning against those who caused His suffering. He is our great example.
But there is more to this than simply looking at Christ as our pattern. We will not follow Christ as our example if we do not understand what Christ has done for us as our Saviour. Charles Spurgeon said, “No matter how well we speak of Jesus as a pattern, we have done nothing unless we point Him out as the substitute and sin bearer.”
We must not only consider the suffering Christ as a pattern to follow, but we must also consider Him as the sacrifice for our sins. When we consider Him that way we have the greatest comfort in times of trouble, the greatest motivation for holy living, the greatest encouragement in our sufferings, and the greatest reason to continue in humble and faithful fellowship with God. It is by considering Christ in His sufferings—what He has done and what that means for us—that we are able to endure when we suffer for Christ’s sake. He suffered to save me from my sins; therefore, I am able to cope when I am called to suffer for Him.
And what is the best means of cheerfulness in such a world as this? How shall we get through this valley of tears with least pain? I know no better means than the regular, habitual practice of taking everything to God in prayer. (J. C. Ryle, Call to Prayer, p. 19)