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3. The Greatest Witness

Seasons of suffering are not a waste but rather an opportunity to let Christ’s power shine through us, bearing witness to his strength.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

-1 Peter 3:13-15

Useless. Unproductive. Wasteful. Do any of these adjectives categorize how you view seasons of suffering? It can be easy to see our pain and trials as frustrating detours in life. 

The message of 1 Peter, however, invites us to view our suffering as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to press into faithful living for Christ, rejecting the path of mere survival in our difficult circumstances. In this devotional, we’ll explore how to live for God in our suffering by bearing witness to Christ within our trials.

People notice the way in which we suffer, and placing our hope in Christ affects how we handle our hardships! When people see that we possess peace or joy even within our suffering, they’re going to wonder why. “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 says. With your words, Peter is encouraging us, testify to the impact that Jesus has upon you in your suffering! 

Peter goes on to unpack how we not only serve as a testimony to Christ with our words but also with our actions. 1 Peter 4:1-2 says, “Since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live… no longer for human passions but the will of God.” Peter is encouraging his reader to view suffering as an opportunity to grow in obedience to God. Choosing faithfulness to God in hard circumstances is a refining and purifying process, and the world will notice this change in us! 

The story of the Christian author, Vaneetha Risner, is a potent example of bearing witness to Christ in suffering. Within a short period of time, Vaneetha lost her infant son, contracted post-polio syndrome, became confined to a wheelchair with ever-diminishing use of her limbs, and was abandoned by her husband to care for their two daughters alone.

But out of her suffering, Vaneetha came to find great purpose. She now regularly writes for a large audience about turning to Christ in pain. In one article, she wrote: 

“It is in our darkest moments, hottest fires, and deepest pain that we have the greatest opportunity to share the gospel; people want to know the reason for our hope. I have a debilitating physical condition, and it is often when I’m facing the sharpest pain and most frustrating weakness that people ask about my faith. I feel grossly inadequate in those moments, so I can testify that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to me.” 

-“What Only Suffering Can Say”

We have the opportunity to show the worth of Christ through our daily trails. People see how we respond to our season of physical pain. Our difficult family situation. Our unwanted singleness. Our sick parents. Our battle with mental health. As Vaneetha so wisely states, “The situations that we wish were most different are likely the places that others are watching us most closely.”

Now, this job of testifying for Christ in our suffering might feel daunting. Peter’s audience at the time was facing violence and even death for speaking out about their faith. For Christians today, sharing about Jesus or living in such a way that goes against the norms of our culture might lead to rejection, missed opportunities or even aggression. Where are we to find strength and bravery? As the message of 1 Peter proclaims, we are empowered to share Christ with others in our suffering by staking our confidence in our ultimate victory: our victory in Christ. 

To an even greater extent than we will ever experience, Jesus too suffered. Having lived a perfect life, he was falsely accused and convicted. Jesus then bore the sins of the world on the cross, separated from his Father and taking on all God’s wrath. Yet, after his suffering, Jesus was vindicated and exalted as king of the world! Peter proclaims that those who believe in Jesus are united to him: we share in his death; we share in his resurrection; and therefore, we share in Christ’s victory! 

One day, we will reign with Jesus, and we will be honored for our faithfulness to him. As 1 Peter 3:14 says, “Even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed.” Assured of our future in Christ, we can fearlessly live for him. 

So let’s not waste our suffering. Let’s tell people about the hope within us! Of how God has met us in our pain! Of how our faith in Christ has made a difference in our trials! Our suffering is the most powerful witness we have. 

RESPOND: Take a moment to ask God to use you and your current experiences as a witness for his glory and worth.

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