I wonder what trouble you’ve encountered this week…
Perhaps toothache that’s driven you to distraction, and then to the dentist? Rushing from pillar to post, leaving the dishes in a smelly clutter in the sink? Harsh words with a spouse or friend? Setting off for an appointment only to rush back for a brolly, arriving at the station only to see the train pull out without you?
They’re what we might call the mundane troubles of life, or, as the dictionary says, those that ‘disturb mental calm and contentment.’ The dishes might not trouble some of you, but others they certainly will!
But perhaps you have met some of the more extraordinary troubles of life – those things we don’t encounter every day.
A diagnosis of a terminal illness, bankruptcy, death, a traumatic experience. The big things that ‘agitate, vex, bother, afflict..’
Not a day goes by when we don’t encounter some kind of trouble. The experience of difficulty in this world is not new to Christians.
Peter’s first letter was written to the ‘elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.’ He touches on troubling experiences including slander (1 Peter 3:15-16) and abuse (4:4) and, addressing these exiles as ‘beloved’, he says ‘do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.’ (4:12)
We may well not experience the same kind of suffering as the exiles of the dispersion, but Peter’s words speak to us, too. We shouldn’t be surprised when trials hit us or those around us. Nor should we ignore the counter-cultural response to suffering that he teaches. In his closing exhortation to ‘all of you’ he says this:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (ESV)
In our time of trial we are to humble ourselves. A difficult thing to do, surely, when the human heart longs for a quick fix? And preferably one that fixes the troubling circumstances, not the slow work of heart change!
But note the present continuous of the ESV translation.. ‘humble yourselves.. cast-ing all your anxieties on him..’
The process is all one. It is in cast-ing our anxieties on him that we recognise that he is God and I am not.
And how much more are we able to go on casting our anxieties on him because Peter reminds me that ‘he cares for you’!
This means he cares for me in my time of trouble. It also means he cares for the friend I’m walking alongside in their trouble, knowing that there is no quick fix. It’s all covered by his love and we are humbled into casting our anxieties, all of them, on him.
We rest in the knowledge that in casting our cares on him, he will go on caring for us. He is the Lord, the one who has chosen us and secured a glorious future for us (1:3), one in which we have hope!
“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. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10)