This is Part 5 of 5 parts answering the question, “Can there be peace in a world filled with suffering?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?”
God’s Peace Is Instrumental to Help Us Grow in Appreciation
Paul was imprisoned several times and suffered greatly. The Roman prisons were much different from the ones today, where the inmate might receive three hot meals, his own bed, and resources to become a lawyer and sue the prosecuting attorney. No, many of the prisons that Paul endured were dark, dank, cold, and full of bodily waste. He was probably sore as the chains that bound him chafed his skin. But during a difficult imprisonment in which he had his own apartment just prior to the end of his life. But during a difficult imprisonment, Paul maintained an attitude of appreciation. He wrote from his Roman imprisonment to the Philippians,
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:3-8 NKJ)
Paul looked beyond the difficulties of his surroundings and grew in his appreciation of God’s growth in others.
Trials will either shatter or strengthen your faith. Try to picture the peace that surpasses all understanding actually gathering up the suffering and laying it before the sovereignty of God. But possession of that strength doesn’t begin at the moment of trial! It is developed over time as you wait upon the sovereign will of God in your life, study His Word, pray, and have fellowship with others. God exhorted Jeremiah to prepare in times of physical peace, because when the turmoil developed life would be challenging,
5 “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan? 6 For even your brothers, the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; Yes, they have called a multitude after you. Do not believe them, even though they speak smooth words to you. (Jer. 12:5-6 NKJ)
So spend time in study, prayer and fellowship with others now!
First of all, the peace that only God can give is strengthened by our study, when we learn what His Word declares and obey it as faithful followers of Christ,
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matt. 7:24-27 NKJ)
A life filled with studying and obeying God’s Word is a life of strength in peace that depends on HIs sovereign will. The Psalmist declared God’s peace for those who love and consume His word, “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.” (Ps. 119:165 NKJ)
Secondly, God’s peace is strengthened by your prayer life of dependence on the Lord. There are a multitude of prayer resources available and many systems for approaching prayer that can help you develop your prayer dependence.
Thirdly, God’s peace is strengthened through fellowship with others. Only the Lord Jesus is the perfectly loyal Friend who sticks closer than a brother, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Pro. 18:24 NKJ) Keeping this in mind, while the believer should not be completely dependent on supportive believers, they can certainly be an encouragement – unless they are like Job’s miserable friends! (Job 16:2) Solomon wrote about the importance of friends during trials,
9 Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecc. 4:9-12 NKJ)
Indeed, you can have God’s peace even in the midst of suffering, but your eyes must be fixed on the Lord Jesus!
1) What do you normally think about when you are suffering?
2) Why is it difficult for us to think that we can learn helpful principles during times of suffering?
3) How would you describe the difference between worldly and godly peace?
4) How do you reach out to help others who are suffering when you are already going through trials of your own (2 Cor. 1:3-4)?
5) In what ways can you strengthen God’s peace in your life and be ready for more difficult trials in the future?