The other night, my wife was having a hard time dealing with the pain of her ongoing migraines and we were sitting on the couch, talking through things as best we could. She asked me to give her something to “hang on to” in her pain, and I gave her 1 Peter 5:6-11:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Here’s some quick observations from that text that we discussed (yes, I know this looks a lot like a sermon outline…force of habit!):
The therefore in vs. 6 points back to vs. 5 which says “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” 1 Peter 5:6-11 hammers out what humility looks like in suffering:
1. The humble person knows God (vs. 6) – The humble person knows that the Lord is the one who brings suffering; everything is “under the mighty hand of God”. A humble person also knows that God has a purpose to his plans, and those who act humbly will be honored (or exalted) by the Lord. Humble people don’t challenge the Lord’s plans or demand answers when they suffer. Humble people don’t demand anything from the Lord but submit themselves to what he’s doing, trusting that his purposes are glorious and his ends will be for their good.
2. The humble person knows themselves (vs. 7) – Implicitly in verse 7 is the recognition that the humble person lacks the true wisdom, power and ability to sufficiently care for themselves. When the humble person faces suffering or trials, that stuff is almost entirely out of their control. The humble person can’t make their cancer go away, but God can. The humble person can’t make their enemies take a hike, but God can. The humble person can’t give themselves strength to keep on, but God can. People who try to manage their own suffering via their own wisdom, wit and power aren’t humble; they’re arrogant fools intent on missing the purposes of God in their suffering. To put it more clearly, in every single difficulty in life, you need to seek out where you need to repent, not if…not because there’s a 1 to 1 correspondence to sin and suffering (i.e. you killed the neighbors dog and now you automatically get whooping cough), but rather that God has a spiritual purpose (namely that his power and wisdom are manifest in your life more) for you in every event of suffering.
The reason that a humble person casts their cares on God is because not only can God handle them, but he also wants to handle them; he cares for you. The same God who created and sustains you has an intimate and tender heart towards your situations and wants to provide you relief from the unbearable weight from your anxieties.
3. The humble person knows the enemy (vs. 8) – The solution to anxiousness is to simply cast your cares upon the Lord, but that’s not the full extent of the solution: you don’t “let go and let God”. That’s a recipe for failure and frustration every time. The humble person knows that they have 2 enemies that they must constantly fight against, and those 2 enemies are the source of their anxieties: (a) their sinful nature, (b) sinful angels. The first is part of vs. 8 urges the humble person to “be sober minded”, which means “be watchful” or “be alert”. That means that a humble person has to have their spiritual guard up, and the reason is because the devil is out looking to destroy them. Now 1 Peter 5:8 isn’t any sort of exhaustive commentary on the relationship between sin and Satan, but humble person needs to know that he’s out to get them and they need to hang on to the reigns of their minds. The humble person needs to be thinking properly (i.e. “biblically”) about whatever situation they’re in or else sin/Satan will deceive them about their situation and have them running off the path of obedience. The command is for believers to do something to themselves and the reason is a force outside themselves.
4. The humble person knows the battle plan (vs. 9) – …and when I say “the” battle plan, I mean “God’s battle plan that they’ve stolen”. The plan is to resist him, and that’s basically another way of saying “be sober minded”. The humble person needs to stand firm in the body of Christian doctrine that they’ve been taught and not abandon that which they’ve been taught when life gets difficult and they are in pain; if suffering causes one to change their beliefs, they weren’t very solid beliefs in the first place. One could even say that suffering makes one’s actual beliefs surface.
A big part of the plan of resisting is also to deny the all-time-number-one lie aimed at those who suffer: “I’m all alone and nobody gets what I’m going through”. That lie is an long standing best-seller on the impulse racks at Satan’s grocery store. The humble person knows that they’re nothing unique in salvation history; they’re facing temptations and situations that have been successfully overcome by many believers long before they were around and if they stand firm in the faith and persevere under God’s might hand in the midst of their trial, they’ll become part of a long line of successfully suffering saints.
5. The humble person knows the goal (vs. 10) – It seems like when everyone is suffering, the goal is to escape the suffering and get back to regular life. With God, the goal is far more grandiose: escape the suffering by escaping regular life. Believers suffer on earth only temporarily, whether their suffering is a few weeks or life-long. You may ask “how can that be? That makes no sense! Life-long suffering surely isn’t temporary!” Well, it sure is when compared to the life that believers are headed to; 80 years of suffering is nothing in comparison to the “eternal glory in Christ” that God has called believers to.
To use a musical metaphor, the humble person knows that this life is basically the tranquilized-chimpanzee kazoo ensemble that precedes the Boston Pops playing the collective works of every great orchestral composer in history. A bunch of chimps, out cold with tranquilizer darts in their bums and kazoos taped to their mouths, isn’t much of an opening act. The Boston Pops, playing every great piece of orchestral music in history, is better…and better doesn’t quite communicate the cosmic magnitude of the contrast.
Sure, a Christian who recovers from whooping cough is restored, confirmed, strengthened and established by the Lord when they get better…but the contrast between getting over whooping cough and the resurrection is far greater than contrast between the TCKE and the Boston Pops. The humble person presses on because they have the Lord’s goal in mind, not theirs. The Lord’s goal is the resurrection (and the eternal glory that follows), and that is the motivation to anxiously seek the spiritual refinement (i.e. the Christlikeness and increase of righteous character) that the Lord has in store for the humble person (in the midst of suffering), rather than simply wanting to return to the comfort experienced before the suffering.
6. The humble person knows God (vs. 11) – A wise man once said something along the lines of “now I know that technically I mentioned that point twice, but I thought it was such a colossal point that it was worth mentioning twice!” The truth that holds this all together is the fact that God is the one ruling the universe and bringing everything together under his sovereign command. The humble person knows the God has absolute dominion over every single facet of their circumstances and trust him implicitly because of God’s sovereign rule. The anchor for the soul in suffering is a right knowledge of God, and it’s the truth that Peter both opens and closes this section with.
Well, that’s the thoughts that I’ve got on 1 Peter 5:6-11. It’s kind of turned from a Bible bite into a full on post (AGAIN), but it’s hard to talk about the scripture concisely. Once you start reading it closely and paying attention to it, the riches of truth just flow forth almost all by themselves! Those are the thoughts that encouraged my wife and myself in our recent period of suffering, and I hope that those thoughts encourage my readers as well; may the Lord be an anchor for your soul on the sea of trial and trouble.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “struggling to be humble” Unger
P.S – No, I don’t know the name of Satan’s grocery store. Feel free to tackle that controversial topic in the comments.
P.P.S. – I’d like to submit the phrase “tranquilized-chimpanzee kazoo ensemble” as exhibit #1 in the case for showing just how little sleep I’m apparently getting with our little newborn. I honestly have no real idea where that metaphor came from, but too late. What’s done is done.