“ …So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”

 1 Peter 4:19

Last week, I left you roasting in the Creator’s kiln. You kicked and screamed all the way to the kiln, questioning God’s judgment, but at some point, you yielded to God’s will.

Yielding is more than difficult. Yield is “a general term referring to any sort of giving in before force, domination, argument, entreaty, appeal.” Synonyms for yield expand the pallet with shades of surrendering (submit and capitulate), yielding through weakness (succumb), and yielding out of respect (defer). We might also say that we buckle, cave, or knuckle under. If you want me to yield, dispense with force, domination, or argument. I respond more willingly to entreaty or appeal. To surrender or capitulate shouts “LOSER.” Deferring out of respect is somewhat palatable, but I’d really rather be in charge. Are you identifying with my distaste for yielding? So why subject ourselves to the fiery furnace of God’s formation? 

The apostle Peter offers us these disconcerting words of encouragement: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad — for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.  

“So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. ...(I)t is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!” (1 Peter: 4:12-16)

Our trials make us partners with Christ — in his suffering. Peter is referring to a unique suffering — suffering for being a Christian. As an American, I worship whom and how I please.  I’m familiar with the pain of physical and emotional suffering and the angst of spiritual upheaval, but I’ve not been persecuted for “being” a Christian.

Recently I viewed “The Reckoning,” a documentary film about the Dutch Resistance during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WWII. The film tells the true stories of ordinary citizens who came to the aid of the Jews, risking their own safety and very lives. 

I try to imagine myself in the shoes of Diet Emmon, a young woman who transported counterfeit identity and ration documents under the noses of the Nazi soldiers. How would I feel, sitting on a train when German soldiers board and begin to search the train? How would I feel hearing that my fiancé, also a member of the resistance, was captured and exterminated in a prison camp?  How would I react when arrested and imprisoned for three months, not knowing what my fate would be? And on release, would I be able to return to resistance work, as Diet did?

I pray I never have to experience such suffering, but Christians and non-Christians alike, worldwide, suffer religious persecution as a way of life. But I will offer what suffering I experience to my Savior. My suffering is fraught with resistance and complaining, but I offer my suffering, such as it is, to come alongside Christ in the suffering he endured for me.

Centuries ago, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo were thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to the golden idol of King Nebuchadnezzar. Yet they testified that “if we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."  God joined them in the furnace and saved them from the fire. (Daniel 3)

This fire was not the kiln of God, but the inferno of Satan. Whether we are being shaped by our Master Potter, or suffering in the hands of evil, God is with us.

“…lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” 

Matthew 28:20

Linda Teeple’s column runs Saturdays. Teeple, an Anderson resident, can be reached at lindyteep@yahoo.com.

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