“For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:19-21 ESV).
No one wants to suffer, be it justly or unjustly. But it is especially difficult to endure suffering when you are not responsible for it.
I made some poor financial choices years ago for which I am still paying. I can own the difficulties related to those poor choices. I am justly suffering. I am mindful of those choices and their consequences; and so I will not make those same mistakes again.
But what about when our suffering is not caused by our choices or actions? Surely we are suffering unjustly, and should be freed from that suffering! Paul understood the dichotomy between just and unjust suffering.
When Paul stood in chains before Festus, the Jewish Chief Priests accused him of many things which he had not done (Acts 25). But Festus wanted to deliver him over to the Jews, so Paul appealed to Caesar. In making his appeal, he said, “If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death” (Acts 25:11 ESV). He had no trouble suffering for something that he did.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul recounts his “thorn in the flesh.” He states that it was given him by Satan; yet God refused to remove it, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v.9). After asking God three times to remove it, Paul accepted his suffering, even though it was of no fault of his.
While I do not share Paul’s “surpassing greatness of the revelations” (v.7), I do suffer unjustly, though I acknowledge that many suffer far more than I. I have chronic migraine, with pain every waking moment. It’s not always bad, but it is always there. At first I was hurt and a bit angry that I had to endure this, but like Paul, I have learned to accept it.
First Peter 2:19-21 says that it is “a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly” (v.19 emphasis mine). Jesus suffered immeasurably, and while our unjust suffering, be it physical or emotional, is another point of identification, another point where we can become more like Him.
Certainly, if you can escape unjust suffering without causing others to suffer, and without bringing detriment to your faith and witness, do so. But when you can’t, mindfully allow your suffering to draw you nearer to your Savior.
Blessings on your day!