Wait Before You Run
November 1, 2023 | Matt Angell
“Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” - 1 Peter 4:19
She came to my office looking to vent. It had been two years since she moved to Uganda with her husband and son. The move had not been easy and the work was considerably more difficult than she thought. However, the most frustrating aspect of her life at that time was one of her colleagues. They were both leaders in their organization and they could not stand each other.
She struggled being in meetings with him or collaborating when there were projects and programs that involved both their departments. Which was all the time. Her husband had several verbal confrontations with him at work and in social settings. It was ugly and it was a mess. Repeatedly she told me that she just wanted to quit. It would be so much easier if she did not have to deal with him. She just wanted to run away.
After listening to her pour out her frustrations I said, “Before you make any decisions, let me ask you a question. Have you considered that God knew you would be going through this even as he called you to Uganda? And if he knew about this, perhaps this is part of his plan for you?”
It makes us uncomfortable to think that God would will for us to suffer. I know that when difficulty comes the first thing I want to do is escape. I want relief from the hardship and the tension. Although I know that suffering is a reality of my walk with Jesus, my heart secretly believes that he wants to deliver me from all trials, immediately. Yet I look at the verse above and see “those who suffer according to God’s will.” This directly contradicts the secret theology of suffering I hold in my heart.
God’s will includes our suffering because God’s will includes our transformation. As much as I may wish it were not so, I change mostly when I am suffering or when I am in need. As trials increase, so does dependency. As I become more aware of my weakness, the more I rely on his strength (2 cor. 12:10). As strange as it sounds, my suffering is a gateway for God’s love, grace, provision, and sanctification in my life.
Sometimes when we run away from the difficulties, we are running away from the vehicle God is using to answer our prayers. We pray for patience, maturity, courage, and a host of others things that God answers through trials. Even the prayer for peace is often answered in difficulty. What is so amazing about God’s peace is not that we feel relaxed when everything is going our way. The miracle of God’s peace is that we experience it when everything is falling apart.
There are situations where our physical safety is threatened or our emotional wellbeing is compromised and we need to escape. However, if we find ourselves in a season of suffering that does not reach that level, pray before you flee. Be patient and perhaps seek the wise council from a spiritually mature friend or pastor. Moreover, be open to how God is using this to change you. This could be an experience you need to become the person he has designed you to be.