The oncologist said, “You always have such a great attitude. Lots of people don’t. I mean, I understand a bad thing is happening and it’s normal to be unhappy about it. But you always have such a good attitude.”
Her comment sent my mind immediately to a verse I have contemplated much this fall, 1 Peter 2:19. “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” The verse has been swirling around in my head. What does it mean to be conscious of God? How could just being conscious of God help us? It’s such interesting wording.
When I first read it, “Being conscious of God” seemed to be a very vague statement, but now I think it’s just the opposite. It is being in a place where the very specific and concrete things you know about God are so much a part of you that that truth—that consciousness of God–supports you in difficult times.
Peter has reviewed those truths in 1 Peter; simple truths that make a radical difference in our lives. Throughout his letter, he drives home the truth that we are chosen by God. Are we conscious of that? I recently met with a woman who was literally lifted out of a puddle of defeat, fear, and hopelessness by remembering this one truth: she was chosen by God! That choosing is permanent, imperishable, reserved. Peter says we can rejoice in that one solid truth even if right now we are experiencing distress. [1:6]. If we understand we are absolutely secure in the arms of God, whatever we are facing, we face it from a position of strength.
Being conscious of God also speaks to living out a choice to obediently follow Him. Peter says to prepare your minds for action, to be self-controlled, to be holy, to purify yourself, to submit to authority, to resist the devil. Peter’s letter is full of commands! He’s describing a lifestyle which humbles itself before God. To me that means living not the way I want to live but the way He wants me to live. Even if the circumstance I’m living in right now is one I would not have chosen.
When Jesus healed the blind man, his disciples asked the question we all ask when life isn’t what we signed up for. “Whose fault is this?” John 9: 2 says, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Our first question when something bad happens is the same as theirs: whose fault is this? Who did this to me? Those are the wrong questions.
Jesus’ answer is amazing. This man’s blindness is going to show the glory of God.
If we know God, know the specifics of who God is and what He has done for us, we can bear up under whatever life throws at us. Disease. Cancer. Family dysfunction. Financial disaster. Painful pasts. Fearful futures. Being conscious of God allows us to handle it, to stand in a secure place, to continue a life of obedience and to ask the right question: how can this bring glory to God?