1 Peter 1:6-9. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Why do we suffer? Does our suffering have any meaning? How can I endure suffering?
What suffering are you experiencing today? What fiery trial are you walking through? How have you been responding to it? What meaning have you assigned to your trial?
Obviously these are big questions. Difficult questions. So difficult that we usually don’t even bother trying to ask or answer them. Often when it comes to our suffering we try to simply minimize it and brush it away. We believe stoicism is godly so we push our sorrow deeper and deeper inside, hiding it from God and others. Or we might think authenticity is more godly so, in order to be “real,” we wear our sorrow on our sleeves, constantly letting everyone know how terrible our life is.
But all of this is a million miles away from the response Peter is asking for from those of us with a living hope – rejoice.
Joy in suffering?
Yes. But not joy because of suffering. Suffering is NOT a joyous thing. We must never call what is evil, good. So like Jesus in the garden, we don’t ask for suffering. In fact, we ask for it to be taken away. But also like Jesus, we face suffering with courage because of the joy set before us (Heb. 12:1-2). There is a joyous salvation awaiting us, but it is only obtainable through suffering. Again, let’s look at Jesus. Jesus could only save us through his suffering and death on the cross. His covenant faithfulness had to be proven for our sakes. So too, in Christ, we can only be saved through our shared suffering with Christ. Why? Because our faith must also be tested as genuine. Jesus’ faith had to be tested genuine through his trial. He was “made perfect” in his suffering (Heb. 2:10). It is the faithfulness of Jesus that saves us. Faithfulness that went all the way to the cross for us. And now it is our faithfulness that will save us. Faithfulness that is guaranteed by God’s gracious salvation. Guaranteed by our living hope in Christ. Look again at how Peter had just described our salvation:
1 Peter 1:3-5. 3 According to his great mercy, [God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
So once again, here is the great mystery of our salvation. The great paradox of our union with Christ. It is the same paradox Jesus himself experienced. He had to be tested and trialed. His faith had to be proven. He had to pass the test and freely choose by faith to go to the cross for us. And yet all of this was guaranteed. It was settled even before creation. There was no chance of Jesus failing. So too you and me. We must be tested and trialed. Our faith must be proven genuine. We must pass the test and take up our cross and follow. And yet because we are in Christ the outcome is guaranteed and guarded by God himself. We cannot fail any more than Jesus himself has failed.
So now let’s do what would never come naturally, only supernaturally – rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and full of glory in our suffering.
Rejoice in knowing that your faith will be proven genuine.
Rejoice in knowing that your suffering is necessary (not arbitrary or meaningless) for your salvation.
Rejoice in knowing that your suffering is so short – for a little while – compared to eternal glory.
Rejoice in knowing that your faithful suffering is taking you toward the ultimate goal – the salvation of your soul from sin and death.
Rejoice in knowing that your suffering will result in your praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. The Jesus who loves you will place the crown on your head. He will sing over you. He will declare your faithfulness in the congregation. He will honor you like you’ve never been honored before, forever. Oh what a day that will be. Oh what an eternity that will be.
And finally, rejoice in knowing that even though you don’t see him, you love Jesus. To love is to live. To love Jesus is to live forever. Rejoice in knowing you’re alive. When your suffering makes you feel dead inside, let Jesus’ faithful love for you stir up your faithful love for him. Don’t desperately search for your love for him. Seek first his love for you. And then you might just find that you share that love. You’ll find out that your faith is real. You’ll know that “to live is Christ.”
Are you suffering today? (Hint: yes)
You in Christ
How does knowing that you are in Christ help you suffer faithfully?
Christ in you
How can you rejoice in (not because of) your suffering today?
Playlist: Suffering With Joy