Mountain lions detect vulnerabilities in their prey and attack the weakest — the young, the sick, the injured. Studies have confirmed this instinctive cruelty. It’s how the mountain lion lives, following the scent of suffering and feasting on whatever he finds.
The enemy of your hope and happiness hunts with that same instinct, with a cold-hearted and ruthless hunger for the weak or hurting. Satan prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). And because he’s clever, he spends a lot of his time among the suffering. He lies in wait with lies, wanting to consume the fragile and vulnerable.
A School for Suffering
Peter knew what it felt like for Satan to pounce on him in difficult circumstances, to find himself suddenly gasping and drowning in temptation, to lack the strength to fight and to be overcome. He abandoned and denied Jesus on the night he died — not once, but three times (Luke 22:60). Like a wounded or sick infant deer pitifully trying to escape a mountain lion, the once confident and strong Peter became the defenseless prey.
But before Jesus hung on the cross, he had prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail, and that his ministry would rise again from the ashes of fear and defeat.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31–32)
And the same Peter that cowered in fear before the little servant girl, denying he ever knew Jesus (Luke 22:56), was later crucified for his Christian faith. And before he boldly died to tell his love for Jesus, he wrote a letter to suffering Christians everywhere and for all of time, even today.
Peter had learned that Satan loved to hunt among the hurting, but he also learned that God arms us to fight well, even in pain and weakness. God plants invincible truths in our vulnerable hearts, and then guards our faith with his infinite power (1 Peter 1:4–5). Here are five truths to believe in the valley against all of the lies Satan hides in the shadows.
1. All of your suffering will end one day.
Peter writes as one who has suffered, to brothers and sisters who will suffer for their faith in Jesus (1 Peter 4:12–13). The painful moments in life — however those pains come — are the ones in which we’re most likely to question God and go our own way. Satan says,
God doesn’t care about the pain you’re going through.
God isn’t able to do anything about it, anyway.
The distress, the misery, the adversity will never end.
But Peter says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6). Your present suffering will only be for a little while (1 Peter 1:6), even if it’s for the rest of your earthly life. And soon, God will lift (“exalt”) you out of these difficult circumstances and into his safe and satisfying presence forever, away from everything you feared and suffered in this age (see also Romans 8:16–18, James 4:10). He will heal every wound, make up for every loss, and wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).
Instead of responding to our suffering with proud indignation, we shock the world with patient, even joyful, humility. We follow Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2) — “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:8). He suffered everything knowing the happiness of being held by and for heaven.
2. God is not only able to guard you, but he also cares for you.
What does humility look like in the midst of hardship and heartbreak? “Humble yourselves . . . casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Instead of defiantly hurling your affliction back at God, humility hands every anxiety back to him with affection and confidence. Humility refuses to treat God like an incompetent or unsympathetic boss, but comes to him, even in suffering, as a compassionate and invested Father.
Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26). If we truly believed that the God who created all things, having absolutely everything at his disposal, cared for us like a Father, then we would not resist him and his will like we do, even when life gets hard.
3. Our suffering in this life reminds us we’re at war.
Peter goes on to say, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). All the things that might tempt us to doubt God and his goodness are meant to lead us to him, and to prove that he’s engaged in a massive spiritual battle for our lives. A powerful, compelling, and creative enemy wants to kill you.
As a weathered veteran of the war of life, Peter wrote earlier, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). When we are disappointed or afflicted, God is shaking us out of our complacency and entitlement to awaken us to the realities of life deeper and more important than our circumstances.
4. However lonely your suffering feels, you are not alone.
You are at war, but you are not alone. God is with you, and he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7) — and Peter says more: “Resist [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9). Fight Satan’s onslaught of lies knowing that you are shoulder to shoulder with an army of other believers.
You may not know someone suffering the same thing as you in your immediate context, but you are not alone among Christians in the world and in history. God has cared for them, and he wants you to know he will care for you, too. And while the needs around you may not be identical, they are real, and often intense and overwhelming. The military strategy for a needy, hurting, and embattled Christian community reads, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
God’s infinite wealth and power will meet and provide for God’s weak and suffering people with God’s relentless compassion and care when they are gathered together around and clinging to God’s word, especially his promises.
5. God will not only take away your suffering, but he will heal every wound and restore everything good forever.
Suffering will not be the lasting note of your life. If you joyfully humble yourself in God’s hands and plan, he will exalt you soon enough. On that day, “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).
We will suffer for a moment (when compared with eternity), and then be restored from all our brokenness, confirmed against all our uncertainty, strengthened from all our weakness, and established in all our glory by our God. In the place of our broken and painful existence on earth will be a never-ending experience of the greatest Joy you’ve ever known or tasted (Psalm 16:11).