Your Fiery Trial

No doubt you’ve suffered “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Perhaps you’ve been insulted, falsely accused, or unjustly condemned when you’ve tried to do good for others? All alive will at some time suffer one or more of these adversities. However, only those saved by God’s grace can grow as a result of them. The Apostle Peter says in his first letter:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13 English Standard Version (ESV)

Although Peter elsewhere counsels that Paul’s writings are sometimes hard to understand, I find this passage of his difficult as well. Let’s see what John Calvin has to say:

Beloved, think it not strange, or, wonder not. There is a frequent mention made in this Epistle of afflictions; the cause of which we have elsewhere explained. But this difference is to be observed, that when he exhorts the faithful to patience, he sometimes speaks generally of troubles common to man’s life; but here he speaks of wrongs done to the faithful for the name of Christ.

And first, indeed, he reminded them that they ought not to have deemed it strange as for a thing sudden and unexpected; by which he intimates, that they ought by a long mediation to have been previously prepared to bear the cross. For whosoever has resolved to fight under Christ’s banner, will not be dismayed when persecution happens, but, as one accustomed to it, will patiently bear it. [In order] that we may then be in a prepared state of mind when the waves of persecutions roll over us, we ought in due time to habituate ourselves to such an event by meditating continually on the cross.

Moreover, he proves that the cross is useful to us by two arguments, — that God thus tries our faith, — and that we become thus partakers with Christ. Then, in the first place, let us remember that the trial of our faith is most necessary, and that we ought thus willingly to obey God who provides for our salvation. However, the chief consolation is to be derived from a fellowship with Christ.

Hence Peter not only forbids us to think it strange, when he sets this before us, but also bids us to rejoice. It is, indeed, a cause of joy, when God tries our faith by persecution; but the other joy far surpasses it, that is, when the Son of God allots to us the same course of life with himself, that he might lead us with himself to a blessed participation of heavenly glory.

For we must bear in mind this truth, that we have the dying of Christ in our flesh, that his life may be manifested in us. The wicked also do indeed bear many afflictions; but as they are separated from Christ, they apprehend nothing but God’s wrath and curse: thus it comes that sorrow and dread overwhelm them.

Hence, then, is the whole consolation of the godly, that they are associates with Christ, that hereafter they may be partakers of his glory; for we are always to bear in mind this transition from the cross to the resurrection. But as this world is like a labyrinth, in which no end of evils appears, Peter refers to the future revelation of Christ’s glory, as though he had said, that the day of its revelation is not to be overlooked, but ought to be expected.

But he mentions a twofold joy, one which we now enjoy in hope, and the other the full fruition of which the coming of Christ shall bring to us; for the first is mingled with grief and sorrow, the second is connected with exultation. For it is not suitable in the midst of afflictions to think of joy, which can free us from all trouble; but the consolations of God moderate evils, so that we can rejoice at the same time.

One might object that suffering for righteousness sake in the hope of future joy is nothing more than “pie in the sky when we die.” But it is so much more. This kind of suffering shows we are His possession, and if we are His, this world has no hold on us. This momentary light affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Steel Mill Run-off

Run-off from a Steel Mill Open Hearth Furnace, Republic Steel Corp., Youngstown, Ohio, November 1941, A work of the U.S. federal government, in the public domain

Reassurance

If you google (yes, to google is a verb) you’ll get:

re·as·sur·ance /ˌrēəˈSHo͝orəns/

noun

noun: reassurance

  1. the action of removing someone’s doubts or fears.

“children need reassurance and praise”

  • a statement or comment that removes someone’s doubts or fears.

plural noun: reassurances

“we have been given reassurances that the water is safe to drink”

This is interesting, because we all need some reassurance lately. Whether it’s because our health insurance has been cancelled, the insurance company hasn’t offered an alternative, and we’re forced to try the exchanges. Or, we’re a newly minted graduate with unproven skills that we’d use for mutual benefit like gangbusters, if only someone would give us a chance. Or, we’re a displaced older worker that still wants to contribute their skills to society and can’t seem to find anyone who will hire us for anything near (even half) what we’re worth to the employer.

Well, I don’t see it. If left to our own resources (just check the heavily commented websites) we almost squeal with glee at the displacement of humans by technology. Overpopulation, some say with the obvious solutions in mind. A mark of progress others say as they cite previous technology revolutions (market, first industrial, second industrial, digital, etc.).

All of these ‘revolutions’ recast how human labor was employed. Each caused worker dislocations. Some caused worker revolts. None were deterred (only derailed to the average worker’s detriment). They’ll tell you it will all work out. But we’re being inhuman of we go on like that. It won’t all work out. People are suffering needlessly. But we can’t return to the past.

The pundits on one side say if you get more of the pie I get less. So I should take your pie (oh, wait, they call it ‘re·dis·tri·bu·tion’). Some see nothing wrong with this. Others call it theft. The pundits on the other side say business should grow the pie. But business men just take more of the pie that’s left (I’m talking to you, Wall Street). We’ve been told to go shopping and buy from government exchanges, as if all will be better then. But that doesn’t grow the pie, either. It’s plain old manipulation. However, someone has to start growing the pie. It’s not going to grow itself, you know.

a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Pie slice, NCI at NIH, public domain

At lunch one day, I was discussing this problem with a friend whose politics differ from mine. We discussed the pie. However, neither of us had any since we’re both trying to lose weight after our job losses. I said we need savvy folks to start enterprises online and in bricks & mortar that use our displaced workforce and apprentice our new grads. Businesses are so refined now that training and loyalty has gone by the wayside. How will young workers grow into positions of responsibility? Why aren’t older workers tapped for their knowledge and expertise?

Now, you could say, these unemployed are the dregs of the workforce. They deserve what they got. And you’d be dead wrong in many cases. Good workers are being let go and not hired to boost stock performance. If you’re so concerned about quality employees, test them as a prequalification step. Give objective, targeted proficiency and psychological tests online as a gate of entry to the interviews. Grow and use trained interviewers with subject matter and social interaction expertise. You’ll be surprised what treasures you find.

Now what would you have them do? Well, figure out what we really need as a society and as a world and have them either make it for or serve it to us. We don’t need more pet rocks. But the world does need more energy, more clean and fresh water, safer roads and neighborhoods, better education independent of economic background, life mentoring, better preventative health care access, etc. You get the idea. Find a need and fill it.

Our technology can be leveraged to support these new enterprises in ways we don’t even bother using. Virtual offices will work if they’re managed well. The usual computer snooping software is unnecessary when folks are measured on productivity and results. When continued employment hinges on good cooperation and quality outputs, a factory, virtual service, or distributed design house (as examples) can flourish.

Meetings can be held online (many outplacement services work that way). Folks can gather centrally on a quarterly or less frequent basis once they’ve been vetted and oriented to the enterprise. Better minds than mine have worked all this out. Look for it and get cracking.

Funding can be raised via loans or investors. While loans may be hard to come by, more investment crowdsourcing is becoming acceptable and available. Check with your accountants and lawyers. I can’t figure it all out for you. You have to pitch in.

Think of it, how many billions of dollars are being left on the table in the interest of the bottom line because social responsibility and innovation are seen as what the other guy does? Granted it won’t be as profitable in the short run as the status quo of squeezing the life out of remaining workers. But in the long run it will pay dividends in work satisfaction, increased tax base, and societal growth and prosperity.

Responsible folks need to give this country (and this blogger) some reassurance and get ‘er done.