DAILY DEVOTION - JUNE 3
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were 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. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
1 Peter 4:12–14
Growing up in Texas, a familiar goodbye was, “Don’t be a stranger!” When someone says to you, “Don’t be a stranger,” it means they don’t want it to be too long before they see you again. They want to stay connected, arguably more than you’re in touch right now, so come on back soon. They are really saying: “Don’t get so disconnected from me that I don’t know what’s going on with you. Don’t become so distant that you seem like a stranger.”
Peter is saying something similar in his letter—using literally the same root word: strange. The Greek phrase translated as “Do not be surprised” is actually “Do not think it strange [to undergo trials].” To these loved ones, Peter is saying, “Don’t think of suffering as a stranger.” Don’t become so disconnected from the idea that you will suffer that it shocks you when it happens again. Suffering will never be eliminated this side of heaven, and unjustly suffering for Jesus should never be surprising.
Peter knows that what he is saying is difficult to hear and even more difficult to accept. When God created a perfect world, there wasn’t any suffering—it wasn’t part of the original plan! And yet, with man’s willful rebellion, suffering came upon all creation. While suffering was not the way it was supposed to be, it is now to be expected—normal, but never normalized, meaning we shouldn’t try to explain it away or numb ourselves in unhealthy ways against it. Suffering will always be hard, painful, and uncomfortable.
With his word choices and his repetition about suffering, Peter is grieving the reality of it while assuring his readers there is nothing shameful about suffering for Jesus. In fact, as earlier verses have suggested (1:6–7, 13; 2:4, 12, 21; 3:9, 14; 4:1, 7), it should be expected, and we are to be prepared!
The dual citizenship of these elect exiles (and us) further suggests they will suffer. The fact that they are citizens of God’s kingdom and yet sojourning on earth means that they should be prepared to encounter hostile territory and inhospitable people. They are a chosen race and a royal priesthood, beloved by God and heirs with Christ. However, in inheriting his mission and ministry, and in knowing that the world opposed him, they will suffer because of his name. In the footprints Christ left us to follow, suffering is an inevitable companion. Yet, even so, these believers are still privileged—even privileged to suffer—if it means suffering for Jesus’ sake.
Yes—as sad, disappointed, and frustrated as they have the right to be, they are still in a privileged position in history, not just because the heavenly beings long to see the salvation of God’s people unfold, but because, one day, the full scope of Christ’s victory will be plainly seen by all. In that day, all those who suffer for him now will inherit his glory later (cf. 1 Peter 1:10–12).
So, here again we have Peter coupling suffering and rejoicing (see Week One, Day 6), and telling us not to be surprised when we are tested. Similar to the fire in the crucible burning up the dross, trials will come upon us to test our faith. We are not being testing so that God can see how we will respond, because he knows everything. We are tested as God’s way of purifying us of our impurities, preparing us for future endurance, and producing in us a faith greater than gold (see Week One, Day 5).
Peter turns now to our companion in suffering. Suffering will happen, and yet we are blessed because, as we undergo every trial, we have God’s presence with us. Look in verse 14: “...the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” God is with us, and his Spirit motivates and helps us continue on even as we suffer. The pain is there, but God provides real, tangible, palpable care, comfort, and companionship.
Peter is not suggesting some “silver-lining” view of life that asks you to be happy that you are suffering. We are never told to seek suffering or to enjoy it! Rather, we are encouraged to endure suffering and be thankful in the midst of it. What Peter is saying is that there is real comfort in knowing that, even while you suffer, the presence of the Almighty God is with you, abiding with you, and sustaining you. You can rejoice in this beautiful truth! His presence is with you now and his glory will be revealed to you later. Pain was never part of God’s plan and you don’t have to make peace with it—just peace with knowing that you’re going through it for the sake of your Savior.
“Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings” is to endure unjust suffering assured that God is with you, and to be thankful for all that you can be thankful for in your life even while you are in the midst of real pain. In suffering, we can know with certainty that God will someday right all this. The good promise of God is that joy will triumph over grief, and joy alone will remain when Jesus’ glory is revealed at his return.
This passage is actually laying out a theology of suffering. First, suffering will come—it’s not if, but when. Then comes the how. How do we deal with pain and suffering? We remember who God is—faithful, loving, kind, and true. We remember that we are his and that he will never leave us nor forsake us. His is the presence that matters most in our lives.
I am reminded of the hymn “Abide with Me” as it expresses our current pain, God’s presence, and our future glory and full restoration:
I need Thy presence, every passing hour. What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r? Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless; Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness; Where is thy death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still, if Thou abide with me. Hold Thou Thy cross, before my closing eyes; Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; In life, in death, Lord, abide with me.