“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9)
When it comes to suffering as Christians in this world (i.e. for the cause of Christ, physical, emotional, or spiritual), our God and Savior can sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15-16). He knows our sorrows, pain, rejection, loneliness, and loss (Isaiah 53). Jesus knows physical pain, what it’s like to be rejected, to be abandoned by His own friends and family, and to know the loss of a parent (His earthly father). Jesus knows what it is like to suffer and to be crushed and persecuted for His beliefs. He even knows what it is like to be cut off from the Heavenly Father when on the cross, to be falsely accused, and to be unjustly tried. The list can go on. No matter what you have suffered, Jesus knows your sorrow.
So then, how can one find joy in suffering? How does one, as Peter stated, “…greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…?”
First, Peter says you have obtained an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you (1 Peter 1:4). You will not find any lasting comfort or satisfaction in this world. Your joy, hope, and security is found in being “…born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). It’s knowing that your faith in Christ is the most precious thing that you have. Peter says that it is more precious than gold which will perish.
Second, you will be tested in this life. Jesus told His disciples to expect persecution. Why? Because this world hated Him first. Jesus never promises us that we will escape suffering. This world has suffered because of sin and because of the devil, the prince of this earth. Therefore, your joy is this; if God is for you, who can be against you? It’s knowing that there’s nothing that can separate us from Christ’s love for His own (Romans 8:28-37).
Finally, you can have joy inexpressible when you don’t focus on present suffering, but the future outcome of your soul. Paul knew what it meant to suffer and encouraged his readers with these verses he wrote while in prison. “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
One of the greatest benefits of being a believer is knowing that suffering in this world is temporary. The glories of heaven are eternal. Place your faith in Christ for eternal joy in the midst of present suffering.
Grace and Peace! – GT