I woke up this morning at around 2:00 AM thinking about Peter. Most people, including myself, identify with Peter because he often spoke without thinking. He was quick with his lips and sometimes with his actions. He was also the one who denied our Lord. Not just once. Three times. If I am honest with myself I must admit that I’ve been guilty of denying our Lord many times more than Peter did. But that’s not what I was thinking about this morning.
I was thinking of Peter the man who would glorify God in a very painful way. What I had in my mind was John 21:18-19.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”” –(John 21:18-19 ESV)
Jesus told Peter that he would stretch out his hands and go to a place where he would not want to go. The historical record shows that is exactly that Peter did. He died as a martyr stretching his arms like his Lord dying on a backwards cross because he didn’t think of himself worthy of dying like Jesus.
I have a feeling that at that moment Peter did not understand how such a grotesque death would glorify God. I say this because Peter immediately turned to see John who happened to be snooping around and asked Jesus, “what about this man?” Funny how I can relate to Peter in this way more than any other way. I think that it would be very hard for me to know my destiny without questioning the fate of others. What about her Lord? What about him?
When I thought of Peter and what Jesus told him I was reassured that I do not need to understand everything. I do not need to know God’s plan to its fullness. It is very natural to question everything, to want to know details, and to seek for purpose where we see none. Yet, Jesus didn’t explain Himself to Peter. And He certainly doesn’t need to explain Himself to me.
God was speaking to me this morning. There are times where my life seems like a scarlet thread of pain. I feel like I was destined to walk the hard road while others were called to the easy path. I have vivid pictures in my mind of things I want to forget. Some done to me. Others caused by my own foolishness and rebellion. Nevertheless it has been a hard road. And in the past few days I’ve felt that my pain was more intensified especially as I looked for answers to all of my questions. Then I thought of Jesus’ words to Peter: “Feed my sheep.”, “Tend my sheep.”, “Follow me.”, “What is that to you?”, “You, follow me.” and I found that knowing what He needs me to do is far more helpful to me than knowing why He is doing what He is doing.
The Apostle John explained Jesus’ purpose in Peter’s suffering, “this He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.” But before Jesus shared with Peter the end result He told him what Peter needed to do. Peter was to keep busy feeding the sheep, tending to it, and following Jesus. All this in the midst of great suffering through church persecution, imprisonment, and finally crucifixion.
The end result of my suffering is to glorify God. It is not in vain. It is not without purpose. It was ordained. And it is part of a plan that was not discussed with me, yet its end result is glorious.
In a time and age where pain and suffering are discarded as a mere tools of Satan to make our lives impossible or steal our pleasure it is hard to see suffering as a glorious and precious means for God to get all the glory. Yet, I believe that Satan wants us to believe that all pain and suffering is bad. He knows that when we experience pain it is not our natural tendency to see the glory of God in the midst of it. Satan’s chief plan is to destroy and steal the glory of God. The more that God’s glory shine in us through our suffering the more God is exalted and Satan seeks nothing but to be exalted himself. He is a thief. But he is not after our cars, houses, jobs, children, marriages, and money. No. He is after the glory of God.
Oh, that we would get that! Our enemy could care very little about our bank accounts. He is not mindful of our stuff. Our children mean nothing to him. He is not after your husband or your wife. All he wants is to steal the glory of God! And he will steal whatever he can from you to make you “curse God and die” because he knows that when you do God’s glory is defamed and he has won what he so badly desires. It is easy to let Satan steal God’s glory when we are in pain simply because we are in pain. If instead of fretting, cursing, screaming, or blaming our past, our parents, or our so-called friends for the times we suffer or stumble, we would give glory to God and patiently wait for His rescue, then we would have a tight grip on God’s glory and the enemy would not be able to take away what he is truly after.
As a fellow sister and someone who has had a number of painful experiences I encourage you not to fall into the trap of following your whys or what abouts. There is only one answer that matters—all is meant to bring glory to our Almighty Father in Heaven. By this too He will be glorified. I do believe that much, if not all, suffering is inflicted by our enemy to harm us and steal God’s glory away, but I also believe that God is ultimately in control and has a much greater purpose for all that comes our way. He is not oblivious to what is causing your tears. In the end everything will glorify Him. Rejoice in that.
Genesis 15 tells the story of God making a covenant with Abraham. In the midst of it He tells His friend, Abraham, that his offspring will be slaves for four hundred years in a strange land. That may not have been what Abraham wanted to hear right then. But this prophecy came to pass. And four hundred and thirty years later in Exodus 2 God hears the cry of His people in Egypt and He remembered the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Scriptures say that “God knew”.
“God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” –(Exodus 2:25)
God knew that it was time to come to the rescue His people. Their suffering had a purpose. It also had a time limit. Their suffering and enslavement would end up bringing God much glory. You and I are partakers of the covenant that included their suffering. God planned their suffering and also planned their rescue. Wait for God. In His time He will rescue you too. If you are His child you will not be in suffering nor in slavery forever. I promise. Until then, feed His sheep, tend His flock, and follow Him.—Maria