Here is a very good question one of our readers asked recently. Her question and her insights are very good and we hope will be very helpful to all of you:
I have been studying 1Peter, and listening to several sermons on submission. Submission to the government, and in marriage and in suffering. My question and dilemma is that for so many years, almost 50, I thought the more I suffered, the more holy I was. I thought that to suffer well was a good thing. So I suffffffferred! It was like a badge of honor. Now that I have read your books and the books of others who understand abuse, I don’t agree with the concept of “morose” suffering. So, where do we draw the line?
I responded to the question with this:
The key is, this is my conclusion, that Peter was talking to people who were bound to the situation they were in – like slaves in regard to their owners, etc. Notice that 1 Peter 3 begins with “likewise.” That hearkens us back to chapter 2 where Peter was dealing with citizens of Rome and with slaves. And I think that wives in regard to divorce options in that day were in similar conditions in that these were states of life that did not provide a way out. So how does a Christian slave or citizen of an autocratic government or a wife married to a wicked husband and having no escape routes respond? Peter is giving all 3 categories of people hope. Here is something they can do. Submit and model Christ.
However – we are never required to suffer when there is a way out of it. Christ’s sufferings were redemptive. He willingly submitted to the Father and went to the cross for us. But we are not Christ. We do not effect the redemption of others by suffering. We take the way of escape the Lord provides.
Does God allow Christians to suffer? We know that He does. But when He does, He works it together for our sanctification and he provides a way of escape at some point. He will not test us beyond our ability to endure with His empowerment.
I am not crystal clear on all the verses in the Bible on submission. (Anymore in fact I am very suspicious of preachers and teachers and professing Christians who DO claim to have it all sorted out). Especially the verses addressing marriage. I do know that marriage as God ordained it is very good and that whatever is meant in the Bible by a wife submitting to her loving husband is very good as well. But surely this headship submission thing which prevails in churches today and that claims to represent accurately these Bible texts is not what God has designed. We know that the Bible clearly says the husband is the head –
Ephesians 5:22-25 ESV Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (23) For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (24) Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (25) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
But when Christ is the head of His bride, the church, He truly loves us and has given Himself for us. Our submission to Him is loving and willing and freeing. THAT is not what all these churches teach about marriage. They may claim that they do but when you look at it in practice it is a model of lording it over, of men being superior and women inferior. The real spirit of the scripture is ignored and the letter is what is taught.
I find it interesting that the church so often thinks it is necessary to teach at length on “submission.” Christ’s true sheep follow Him. We hear His voice. We submit to Him. So if a woman is married to a real Christian husband, that husband’s leadership in the home should be reflecting Christ’s voice. Everyone in the home, including the husband, will be following the true Shepherd of the sheep. We won’t need to have it hammered into us. “Submit you sinful rebel!”
Anyway this business of “submit to suffering and God will reward you” is wrong in that it leaves out “if you can escape it, do so.” Also it forgets that we do not need to earn more favor with God. We are in Christ. He has lavished grace upon us.
Our friend responded to my input with these very insightful points:
Thanks, Jeff, for your thoughts. I do appreciate you taking time to write these principles out for me. Last night just before bed I got my Bible out again and found 1Peter 4: 19 – “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” Off hand, what this verse is saying to me is, that my suffering needs to be of God’s will. Which falls in line with what you were saying.
I have never understood that if I could escape suffering, that I was to take the way out. I always thought it meant that if I was tempted to sin, that the Lord would provide a way of escape for me to not yield to the temptation. I saw the verse as a “series of doors” as it were, that could be a way of escape and that if I did not take a “door” out that He provided, I might find myself sinning.
So if I understand you, you are saying that if God provides a way to escape suffering, I should take it. Experientially, there may have been doors that God provided for me that I could have taken. I did not take any of them until the very end because I was almost willing to die, literally, in a bad marriage. I did not want my children to come from a broken home. Now I realize that it was always broken.
I now realize that my ex was a narcissist/sociopath. He was two people. To the world, he was a god, mr. wonderful, and to me, he was always angry – even though I was doing nothing wrong. My health suffered. Thankfully, I am out of it, though there is still some fallout.
There are so many books on the Christian market on suffering and I have read many of them. Tim Keller’s book on “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”; Elisabeth Elliots books, and many others. It is so very confusing. There are best sellers out there. It almost makes me sick to my stomach.
This is wisdom! We thank our friend and sister in Christ for sharing this with us. Here is freedom. It is truth and Christ’s truth sets us free.