You can hardly surf through the myriad channels available on basic cable without finding a nature documentary where the apex predator is stalking an unsuspecting herd of prey. It is clear that the documentary is legitimate and quality; after all, the narrator speaks in a British accent, the hallmark of authoritative knowledge.
Once the apex predator has sprung from hiding and gives chase the herd of prey moves in a kind of instinctive, uniform but chaotic motion. The narrator explains how the predator is looking for the weak, young, sick or old in the herd. Then comes the heart-wrenching moment when you see the young creature peel away from the fleeing pack, supposing its chances are better alone. The predator instantly retargets and with a sinking feeling the viewer realizes the inevitability of the creature’s fate. Then an interesting phenomenon happens. The predator nicks, bumps, or just gets close to the prey and at a certain point the prey also realizes its fate and simply lies down.
I Peter 5 gives directions to leaders in the church as well as the church body as a whole. Verse eight advises, “… Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Whether active persecution, physical ailments, condemnation for sin, depression, financial woes, intense temptation, failure, etc., every believer experiences sufferings or attacks of different kinds on a regular basis. What do we do with this?
No rest for the weary
Unlike conventional warfare there is no ethic of the predator that compels mercy for the weak, sick, young, old, downtrodden or particularly vulnerable. In fact, these individuals within the body can become the specific targets precisely because they are vulnerable. Leaders in any capacity also are targeted because through them the vulnerable they lead are made doubly vulnerable.
Peeling off from the pack
While the sufferings are certainly a common experience they may not always feel like a “shared” experience. When faced with sufferings and the attacks of the enemy our instinct can sometimes be to go it alone and retreat into isolation. Whether the believer feels alone, believes they are alone or are, by circumstances, made to be alone, the moment a member of the body chooses to “go it alone” or even identifies as being in it alone, their fate becomes increasingly imminent. Verse nine instructs the believer to, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” As counter-intuitive as it may feel to us who wrestle with depression, failure, condemnation, guilt, and shame, isolation will exacerbate the problem rather than remedy it.
Refusal to lie down
In the heat of the chase, when sin, suffering, and Satan are nipping at your heels, do not give up. Do not lie down and despair. Resist him. Be resolute in your conviction, and not just in your conviction that you ought not lie down (if this were all we resolved we would certainly, inevitably lie down). Take solidarity with the rest of the body and resolve to believe that, “…after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). Stand firm in the knowledge that He will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
Simply put, we are all suffering. God designed his body and bride to suffer and survive together not to suffer and be conquered in isolation. What compels us to resist despair and defeat is not the command to survive but the promise of restoration, confirmation, strength and establishment in Christ. So be watchful; be sober-minded. Are you isolating yourself? Know that you are not alone in your suffering and hope in the eternal glory of Christ which we will experience together.
Peter John Kinkel