Trials and suffering are absolutely difficult to handle, no one would argue differently. Many times our trials and/or suffering push us to the limit of our energy, resources, or mental capacity. It’s at that breaking point that we often times reach out to God with nothing more than our broken spirits crying for help. Trials and sufferings come into our lives for any number of reasons, whether we bring them upon ourselves or God allows us to experience them to learn and grow from. One problem facing the church today is that we still seem to be surprised when we experience these trials and suffering. The church has gotten comfortable in big houses and new cards. It’s bought into the “nothing bad should happen to me” mindset that society portrays.
Why are you surprised when you encounter trials?
REVEALED BY FIRE
As followers of Christ, believers in the Savior of the world, fellow heirs with the Son of God, and characters alongside the Author of life, we are essentially guaranteed that life will be difficult. We have recently finished a series on Peter and his life and even Peter understood this fact as he records the following:
1 Peter 4:12-13 - “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange was happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”
One particular piece in this passage sticks out as we read through it. Peter identified a particular set of circumstances that his readers were experiencing. Most commentaries would agree this “fiery trial” references the terrible persecution the church had been dealing with for quite some time. They continued experiencing true suffering for the name of Christ through martyrdom, often times ending up as victims of a fire.
REJOICE THROUGH SUFFERING
We should not find it strange or out of place that we encounter trials or suffering. We shouldn’t even attribute them to “bad luck” but in fact, we should rejoice in them (James 1). Experiencing trials and suffering as we progress through life provides opportunities to actively engage with our faith. Peter wrote to encourage his readers to remain faithful to the cause of Christ. As we progress through life those trials will take different forms, but we must also remain faithful to the cause of Christ.
Peter goes on in verse thirteen writing that as those who continued to partake in suffering for Christ’s name would rejoice all the more. Matthew Henry wrote an insightful commentary on this section:
“By patience and fortitude in suffering, by dependence on the promises of God, and keeping to the word the Holy Spirit hath revealed, the Holy Spirit is glorified; but by the contempt and reproaches cast upon believers, he is evil spoken of, and is blasphemed. One would think such cautions as these were needless to Christians. But their enemies falsely charged them with foul crimes. And even the best of men need to be warned against the worst of sins. There is no comfort in sufferings when we bring them upon ourselves by our own sin and folly."
“…Yet all outward difficulties would be as nothing, were it not for lusts and corruptions within. These are the worst clogs and troubles. And if the way of the righteous be so hard, then how hard shall be the end of the ungodly sinner, who walks in sin with delight, and thinks the righteous is a fool for all his pains! The only way to keep the soul well, is, to commit it to God by prayer, and patient perseverance in well-doing. He will overrule all to the final advantage of the believer.”
James mentions in chapter 1 of his letter that we should consider the trials and sufferings we experience as joy because through them our faith will produce perseverance. Further on, he writes in verse twelve, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
Friends, understand this: our faith will be tested many times and in many ways throughout our lives. There is no point at which we should be surprised when trials and suffering present themselves, especially if we bring them upon ourselves. As you experience trials and suffering for the cause of Christ, hide God’s Word in your heart, seek fellowship and accountability with other believers, strengthen your faith through prayer, and persevere.