Joy and Suffering

Church magazine Article for August

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In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV)

I think one of the greatest challenges of the Christian life is to be joyful in suffering. Peter describes the Christians he is writing to as being able to “greatly rejoice” despite their “grief in all kinds of trials.” How is that possible?

I think Peter helps us here. First, we can rejoice in the wonderful realities of following Jesus, despite suffering now. In vv.3-5 he tells us about these benefits:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV)

If we know Jesus, we have a new start we God, the certain hope of the eternal inheritance as part of God's people (what we often call heaven) and salvation on judgement day. Nothing can destroy these things or take them away from us. It is these things, in which we can “greatly rejoice.” It is these things that don't change whatever trials we may face now. It is these things that are eternal and so put our sufferings in their temporary perspective (however, much they might seem severe no!).

Paul writes something similar (and see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 for Paul's list of sufferings!):

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV)

Second, Peter tells us there is a purpose to suffering now in v.7. There is a sense in which suffering proves and refines our faith – the picture he uses is refining gold. He's saying that suffering turns our faith into pure gold (in fact something more precious than that!). Again this has a future pay off. When Jesus returns, this refined faith will “result in praise, glory and honour.” This is probably God's praise to us, which is something worth waiting for!

There can be no doubt that suffering and trials in this life come and that, of themselves, they are not pleasant or enjoyable things. However, as Christians, we can still rejoice in the midst of them because we know our eternity is secure and our faith is being purified for God's praise. There can be a tendency for sufferings to drive us away from God. We blame him for them and ask why he has allowed it. It is much better to run to God in our sufferings, trusting him for our future, seeking a purer faith and rejoicing in all he has given us.

Some questions to ponder this month.

1. Do you rejoice in all that God has given you if you are a Christian?

2. Do you blame God for suffering or trust Him in the midst of it?


 3. Do you look forward to Jesus' return because of the praise of God and the inheritance you will receive?

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