“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
The New Testament has a lot to say about suffering. Peter’s epistle was written during a time of tremendous suffering among Christ followers. Nero was having Christians burned at the stake and using their flaming bodies to light up his garden. Can you even imagine such an atrocity…such hatred for God and His people? Peter knew that his brothers and sisters needed to hear that God had not forsaken them in their suffering. In fact, their suffering was part of the will of God. They also needed encouragement in how to respond to this suffering.
I am not sure that, “Do not be surprised,” was the most welcomed advice from Peter. “Our suffering is to be expected,” he wrote to them. Remember, Peter had spent three years walking with Jesus. Over and over Christ tried to prepare His disciples for what was ahead. In John 15:18-19 He told them to remember that when the world hates them, it hated Him first. Jesus told His disciples that, in fact, it was because of Him that the world would hate them. “You are not of the world,” Jesus said. Therefore, they will hate you. It isn’t a possibility. It is a fact.
Do you expect suffering as a follower of Christ? Do you expect to be hated by the world because of Jesus? It is interesting to me that in an age of increasing tolerance, people seem to be growing more and more intolerant of Christian ideals and truths. As Christ followers, how should we respond to this? Should we be shocked and outraged? The answer is no, we should expect it. This is not some strange, new phenomenon. We must continue to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies so that the light of the Gospel burns brightly regardless of our circumstances or feelings.
Most importantly, we must remember that it is a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ. There is no place closer to the heart of God than where we are laying down our rights and comfort for the sake of furthering the cause of Christ. Brothers and sisters all over the world are suffering physical persecution because of their belief in Jesus. While our suffering may not be like theirs, all of us will suffer if we truly follow Jesus. May God grant each of us the grace to suffer well…to be a light that points others to Him. May we rejoice in our shared suffering, knowing that one day we will also share in His revealed glory.
God, thank You for the blessing of sharing in Christ’s sufferings, so that I may also share in His glory. Help me to persevere. In Jesus’ name, Amen.