“Far be it from you, Lord!”
Have you ever said something like this to God?
“Far be it from you, Lord…
… to allow those innocent people to suffer like that.”
… to allow this sickness.”
… to allow me to suffer with this ‘thorn in the flesh.'”
… to put my family through this fiery trial.”
… to say ‘no’ to my prayer.”
I must admit that some of these statements sound pretty familiar, for I have have heard them in my own prayers at times. We suffer or see those we love suffering. We long for things to be made right, for everything to be “all better.” But they’re not (yet), and we become angry or hurt or confused, and we say, “Why, God? Far be it from you to allow this suffering!“
Peter did this, too, and Jesus wasn’t too happy about it:
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
— Matthew 16:23
Jesus tells Peter three things here:
1 — Get behind me.
Peter was trying to call the shots instead of submissively following his Shepherd. Peter had forgotten his rightful place: behind Jesus, not in front of Him.
2 — You are a hindrance to me.
Jesus even calls him Satan. Peter’s earthly viewpoint was adversarial and opposed to God’s will, just as Satan is. Peter’s feeble attempt to change Jesus’ mind was a hindrance to the will of God.
3 — You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but the things of man.
Why did Jesus consider Peter’s rebuke to be a “thing of man?” Because Peter was thinking about what he wanted: a conquering earthly king, not a suffering servant. But Jesus was willing to obey His Father’s will and drink His cup of suffering, both for God’s glory and our salvation.
I don’t know about you, but Jesus’ rebuke to Peter is a rebuke to me, too.
When I am tempted to point fingers at God, asking how He could possibly allow something like X to happen, I need to ask myself:
— Am I following behind Jesus, or am I trying to put myself in the lead?
— Could I actually be hindering God’s will?
— Could my attitude be indicating a preoccupation with the things of man — an idol, even? Or, am I setting my mind on the things of God? Am I considering what might be best for God’s kingdom? What might be best for souls in light of eternity?
Note Jesus’ teaching immediately after this confrontation with Peter:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
— Matthew 16:24-28
Today, when we are confused by suffering, may we remember that suffering can lead to salvation.
When we are upset by all the “bad,” may we remember God’s promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Just as God was able to work eternal good from Christ’s suffering, He can do it with ours, too.
And when we are tempted to question our Heavenly Father, may we learn to set our minds on the things of God and trust Him — even (and especially) in suffering.
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.
— Isaiah 26:4
Photo credit: Azgan Mjeshtri via Unsplash