1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Rejoice to participate in suffering?
At first glance this is a strange pairing of thoughts to put rejoicing next to suffering. But yet it is not the only place in Scripture that puts joy at the center of our challenges. So what enables joy, even in the midst of challenges?
Perhaps before getting to a couple of examples, Peter puts forward when the joy will manifest most fully…”when his glory is revealed.”
For the follower of Jesus, the reality is following Jesus and putting his Word into practice is not always easy. Subtle or overt persecutions make it tempting to give up and walk away from Jesus to avoid the suffering. Yet, Peter puts the vision out in front of us and reminds us that when we see Jesus in all his glory, in person or on the last day, the joy will be overwhelming! All the suffering will be forgotten for the presence of the glory of Jesus surrounding us.
An example comes to mind: A pregnant mother. (I tread lightly as I don’t want to put words or emotions into a pregnant woman’s mind!) Having a baby is not easy. Morning sickness. Cramping. Weight gain. Sleepless nights…and more. Then contractions, labor, and the pain of pushing a baby out into the world.
Why would any woman go through this suffering? (perhaps some are saying, “I DON’T KNOW!”) For the glory of a little baby in their arms. For many it seems that the intensity of the pregnancy and the birthing processes are left behind when they hold their little son or daughter in their arms for the first time. A face cringing in pain turns to a face beaming with tears. Joy overwhelms all the suffering they just went through.
The Apostle Paul uses a similar picture to contrast the enduring of suffering with the glory that will bring joy:
Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
We can have joy in our sufferings as we keep focused on the glory of God that will be revealed and we will get to experience. Suffering is no fun, but in comparison to the glory that will be revealed, they are miniscule. Suffering is hard, but when you struggle, look into the manger of Bethlehem and see the glory of God revealed in his Son who came to promise you one day your suffering will cease and the glory of heaven will be yours.
This perspective brings joy to our suffering!
Apply: While your circumstances may not change, how does the perspective of God’s eternal glory change your perspective on suffering?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to this world to suffer for us so we might be overjoyed when your glory is revealed to us. AMEN!