“…if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps… when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:20b-21, 23b, RSV)
We all suffer in this life, of course. The brokenness which sin introduced into God’s good creation has ensured that. Sometimes, as St Peter says earlier in this same chapter, it’s our own fault. Our own sin and bad choices result inevitably in suffering of some kind (see Galatians 6:7-8).
But frequently of course, our suffering comes from circumstances outside of our control: illnesses, accidents, other peoples’ choices, natural disasters, various injustices. St Peter here is calling for patience in the midst of our suffering, just as St James does in his epistle (see James 1:2-4).
Patience: “the quality of being willing to bear adversities; calm endurance of misfortune, suffering, etc.” “Willing to bear adversities” implies a consent, doesn’t it? Yet these are circumstances that we have not invited into our lives. In pondering this, I realized that consenting to suffering is possible only if I see that in doing so, I am following in Christ’s footsteps. This is what Jesus means when he urges that his followers take up their own crosses and follow him as his disciples. St Peter says that Jesus is our example in this. He consented to his unjust and unmerited suffering because He trusted his Father’s love and goodness in the midst of it all. That’s my call, too.
I can consent to what I have not chosen. I don’t have to like it, nor should I sit passively and do nothing to remedy the situation. But when I have done all that I can, and I stand helpless to do anything else about the situation, the only thing I can do is to change me, change my mindset. When I choose to surrender to my loving Father’s will for me right now, I can experience peace and the comfort of his “approval”, as St Peter says. For my trust in Him is the only gift he desires and the only gift I can give him.