Do not think it strange

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33, from today’s Gospel reading on the Church calendar)

This is one of the unconditional promises of Christ. Trouble and suffering are not upsets in the normal blissful state of life on earth. That makes me think of St Peter’s instruction:

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Pt 4:12-19)

Some suffering is our own fault, and we can avoid it in future through wisdom and repentance. But Christ Himself suffered; we must set our expectations accordingly. In fact, St Augustine of Canterbury (+604AD) summarized the twelfth chapter of Hebrews this way: “God has one Son without sin, but none without suffering.”

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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