Everyone will go through some suffering whether by health, wealth, relationships, or other ways. The bible tells us that this suffering is not in vain, that it will work out for the good of those who love God (Rom 8:28).
1Peter gives us insights on suffering. I like the New Living Translation (NLT) version when I’m overwhelmed because I can usually understand it better, like a child… like a Christian version of ELI5 (explain like I’m five).
Suffering for Being a Christian: 1Pet 4 12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
In real time while you are suffering, it may not make sense what is there to be “very glad” or “have wonderful joy” about. In the middle of pain, our natural tendency is pain-avoidance, just get rid of it as quickly as possible. Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book, Necessary Endings, says that not all pain is harmful. Like an extraction of a rotten tooth, it’s a pain but a necessary, helpful kind. As we are purified/sanctified/ pruned, the suffering enables us to focus on God while the worthless pursuits of the world become insignificant and revealed for what they are. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word (Ps 119:37).
Some suffering is consequence of our wrong choices or God’s loving discipline to turn us back to him. But some suffering is brought about for trying to follow the Lord. The latter is what Peter refers to. Following the Lord is opposed to what the world teaches. Paying the right taxes, submitting to a harsh husband, refusing to lie on behalf of someone, etc. can be annoying to someone who doesn’t believe in the Word and a cause for persecution to say the least. 1Pet5:14 says “the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.” and verse 16 says it is a privilege to be called by his name.
1 Pet 514 So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!
Verses 17-ff give insight that judgment will be given to all. For the believer, judgment begins in THIS side of heaven.
1Pet 5 17a For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household.
This will be the worst to be experienced during the temporary physical life…maximum 110 years if we have enough budget for royal jelly? After the physical life ends, that’s when the long-term eternal life begins. For the non-believer, living without accountability for the fleeting pleasures of sin (the fake treasures) is already the best to be experienced because once the short physical life ends comes the judgment of suffering for eternity.
1Pet 5 17b And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? 18 And also, “If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to godless sinners?”
We are given the pay now (worst is done, best is yet to come), play later or play now, pay later (best is done, worst is yet to come) option. May this encourage us to endure and know that we are not losing out but we are being enabled to pay our dues early.
Peter then gives this encouragement to stay faithful to the Lord, keep on doing right for he <God> will never fail us. 1Pet 5 19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
Before Jesus was crucified, Peter told Him that He shouldn’t indeed go through suffering, Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns.” Peter must have been stunned when Jesus pointed out that Satan himself was behind Peter’s words of preventing suffering. Now in this New Testament book of Peter which he wrote after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Peter was already more discerning. He writes:
1 Pet 5 8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
and in obedience to Jesus’s command to “strengthen his brothers after he has turned back” (this command was given by Jesus to Peter when Peter professed unto-death-love to Jesus before his subsequent thrice-denial of Him), Peter strengthens believers with the following verses, after himself having gone through course of passion for obeying Christ, being sifted by Satan, failing big time , and then getting reinstated by Jesus.
9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.
Then comes our final reminder that we are not alone but we all collectively suffer but after a little while, God will restore, support and strengthen us.
10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.
Verse 10 is interesting: it says that it is in God’s kindness that he called us to share in his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. It is God’s mercy that allows us to be touched by suffering today. The final outcome will be that we will be mature and not lack anything. We may very well be happy to be caterpillars but we were called to be butterflies. Even the butterfly will not be able to fly if you prevent it from bleeding as it comes out of the cocoon.
James 1 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The lesson from Peter and James? When we suffer, we must be happy, very glad, have wonderful joy, and consider it pure joy. All things will work out for good.
SONG: POWER OF YOUR LOVE