"Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die." 10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips." - Job 2:9-10
Institutes Book 3, Chapter 8, Section 8
"Suffering under the cross, the Christian finds consolation in God."
In this section, Calvin discusses what it looks like to be faithful in the midst of suffering. Yesterday I wrote about his realistic acknowledgement that suffering hurts. Today we will look at what Calvin has to say about suffering for righteousness sake and the temptation to feel entitlement in the midst of our suffering.
"Scripture, then, by these like warnings gives us abundant comfort in either the disgrace or the calamity we bear for the sake of defending righteousness... Paul specifically warns us we shall suffer not only persecutions but also reproaches because we hope in the living God. (I Tim 4:10) ... but since each of these [trials has] an inborn bitterness, by its very nature it bites the hearts of us all. The fortitude of the believing man is brought to light however grievously he is troubled with it, yet valiantly resists and surmounts it. Here his forbearance reveals itself: if sharply pricked he is still restrained by the fear of God from breaking into any intemperate act. Here his cheerfulness shines if, wounded by sorrow and grief, he rests in the spiritual consolation of God." (3.8.8)
What intrigues me about this section is the connection between "feelings of bitterness" and the temptation to "break into an intemperate act." It is my experience that temptation comes to each of us most strongly when we are at high moments or low moments. In the high moments we are tempted to think that we don't need God and we fail to live dependently on him. On the other hand, bitter trials can breed their own temptations. When we are suffering it is easy to feel justified to sin. We may look at our own lives and and ask, 'Why is God doing this to me?' That can lead to feelings of entitlement. 'Look what God has taken from me - I deserve to do what I want now!'
Calvin reminds us that this is a real and powerful temptation. The alternative to giving in to a feeling of entitlement is to remember the depth of God's mercy to us. We always deserve much worse than we receive. That may seem like a hard thought, but it is a biblical truth. If we had the eyes to see it, we would be reminded that even our suffering is tempered by God's mercy. Calvin wants us to see that in the midst of suffering a door opens to sin - to "intemperate acts." But there is another door open as well. The door to the abundant consolation of God. Through surrender we can rest in this spiritual consolation and draw closer to the living God. Our personal suffering opens doors of temptation. But it also opens up doors a deeper dependence upon God.
In what ways do you see personal suffering open the door to temptation? Are their things that you need to surrender and let go of, so that you can rest on God's consolation?