First, I am touched by the kindness of the folk here. Taking it alongside a difficult eight months, it supplies me with this text:
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
I cannot think there are Christians who imagine that a life with Christ is a passport to a life of ease, for we are told that the world will hate us if we are his, and that we shall have to bear our crosses. But if we are in him, and he in us, then we do not lack support when we require help. Perseverance requires hope, and if we have brotherly kindness and love (in my own case, that would be daughterly kindness and love) that makes it all the more bearable. It isn’t easy to explain to non-believers what it means to offer our trials up to Christ, but believers will understand.
Trials are part of life. They remind even the sturdiest individualists amongst us that we are not alone, and if they help us to lean on Jesus, then we may gain an insight into what they bring us other than suffering. They are not ‘barren’ or ‘unfruitful’ in coming to understand more about our relationship with Jesus. Whoever wrote that second epistle of Peter (and I’m not inclined to accept that tradition has it wrong just because some modern scholars cast doubt on it), he was a Christian who had passed through the fires of suffering and come to know Jesus the better for it.
As I emerge from a silence imposed by personal circumstances (as some of you know, Mrs S has been unwell), it is in part to offer encouragement to all who suffer, and to all who feel that the darkness is descending. This world is not our home, but if we will but take the time to talk to God in prayer, then its trials and tribulations are not unfruitful. We may not, and I would not, seek them, but if we believe in him, we have a great high priests who knows our sufferings and loves us, and the one mediator with the Father who will save us.
I can say with Peter:
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts