Suffering and Rejoicing

Are you in the midst of a trial? Stress? Anxiety? The temptation to give into fear, maybe even despair?

Trouble is always tough. Suffering is never easy. It tempts us to ask, “Why? Why me? Why is this necessary?”

But there is a key way to respond to such trying times: When we learn to regard difficulties and suffering as precious—as crazy as that sounds—the way is cleared for us to move on with God and become more like Jesus. That is spiritual progress, that is growth toward maturity.

Let’s look at a passage in the Bible spells this out very clearly: 1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

“Hope” comes with being born again and the belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That hope clings to the understanding of what we will be and what we are becoming right now. In the future we will have bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body. Right now we are undergoing a process—God the Holy Spirit is working in us to make us like Jesus Christ in our souls (also called sanctification).

4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The inheritance is the goal

As a result of the completion of our salvation—the whole process, being born again, made like Christ and given a body like His—we will receive an inheritance. And that inheritance will make anything in this life currently here on earth, any worldly thing we hold precious here and now, in comparison look pitifully weak and unimportant. We will wonder why we thought it all was so important and vital to us and our happiness. Our inheritance will be eternal; it will not perish, dwindle away or become in any way less wonderful. It will be pure and holy. That inheritance is reserved in heaven for us—where our real life is (Col. 3:3).

Meanwhile, God’s power protects us

And for now, we are protected by God’s unlimited power through our ongoing faith in Him with the full unveiling of our salvation in the future, “in the last time.”

It’s never easy to go through troubles and suffering. Yet, in the midst of it all and in spite of it all, God protects us through our connection with Him, which is our faith, our belief in Jesus, our trust in God.

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,

A most beautiful expression of faith is to be able to rejoice in the midst of suffering and trials. It goes against reason and worldly “wisdom” to do that.

7 that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

Metal workers have their reasons

There are two reasons that metal workers put gold in a furnace of fire: (1) to test it and show its quality and (2) to refine, purify it. (from MacLaren’s Commentary, Expositions of  Holy Scriptures, 1 Peter 1:7).

But it just doesn’t make sense!

Why, then, is this illogical rejoicing possible? It is possible when, by faith, you realize that trials and suffering are indeed precious because that very faith, as feeble as it may seem to be to you and me in the heat of such a battle, is being perfected, refined. And when your faith has be revealed by the trial to be genuine with God’s seal of approval on it, you will indeed see it as more precious that the purest gold.

8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (NASB 1977 edition)

And we have, too, this promise:

“10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, NASB).

May we all be forewarned. Troubles will come.

But may we also be prepared to give glory to God…

…by trusting Him in the midst of it all and dare to rejoice–and even thank Him. That can bring “joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

When Times are Tough, Rejoice!

Are you going through a difficult time right now? Does you life seem to be nearly falling apart? Have you have a hard experience lately?

Everyone suffers.

I read somewhere once that “all people suffer.” This life is hard at times, sometimes really hard. Don’t we all ask at times, “Why me? Why, God? Why this? Why now?”

Peter wrote to people who were suffering.

The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians who were undergoing severe persecution. They must have asked those questions too. They were undergoing “fiery trials.” They were being slandered. There was the real possibility of fearful persecution from the Roman Empire. Christians were being martyred by Nero in Rome.

Peter’s epistles are a good read for tough times.

In the following verses Peter wrote some remarkable things…

1 Peter 4:12-14:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (NASB)

Rejoice!

He advises us to rejoice! Seems crazy, doesn’t it–certainly from a this-world perspective. We’ve heard the verse so many times, “All things work together for good…” (Romans 8:29), but at times that can be hard to believe.

But Peter counsels us: Don’t be surprised when difficulties come. Instead rejoice, be rejoicing even in the midst of it. Why? So on that glorious day in the future when Jesus is fully revealed, you will be able to rejoice a lot and with exaltation in the victory you obtained by your God-pleasing attitude. “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12, NASB).

Believe God now.

You see, then we will be with the Lord, and we experience the blessings of those many trials, especially the ones we endured with a good attitude and with faith in God.  In fact, with Peter we will consider them precious…

More valuable than gold

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”  (1 Peter 1:6-9, NASB)

More precious than gold refined by fire. That’s a strong statement. How would you like to have a chest full of pure gold coins in your possession right now? That would be exciting, right?  Yet Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says those troubles we hate and all too often fear, are that precious.

Fit for Ministry

One last point: Just like Jesus, who went through the terrible suffering of His cross, can be touched by our troubles and weaknesses and is so able to help us (Heb. 2:18; 4:15), just like the Apostle Paul suffered a lot and yet, it fitted him for such an abundant ministry to believers then and now (Col. 1:24), so our troubles when we endure them with the best attitude (the rejoicing of faith) fit us to be a blessing to others.

And isn’t that a good definition of ministry: being a blessing to others?

I also read once that we should not “waste our sorrows.” How true. So let’s, you and I, remember that God is indeed in control, that we can indeed trust  Him, and set our hearts to do that. (1 Peter 4:19; Heb. 12:4-11.)