“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.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
We would all like life to be easy, but it is not. All the suffering and sickness that we endure in life is the result of sin and evil. Therefore, as long as we live in the world, we will have suffering because we will always have sin. The problem of how we believers should endure this inevitable suffering is addressed by the apostle Peter, although his focus is on the undeserved suffering of persecution for the name of Christ. The principle Peter puts forth, however, can be applied to all types of suffering.
Peter asserts that judgment begins with the household of God, a reference to Ezekiel 9:4ff. What Peter is stating is that God desires a holy people, a people separated from sin and the world. He uses suffering to refine us and root out our sinfulness. Another reason is to draw us closer to Him, to draw even the lost to Him. He should be the first person we call out to in times of adversity and loss, even if it is only to voice our pain and complaints.
Peter indicates here that God will allow us to endure suffering such as the COVID Pandemic we have endured so that we begin to realize what is most important to us. If we have not reflected on this and on the key role that faith plays in carrying us through, our suffering will be in vain, just as it is in vain for those who do not have faith in Jesus. Suffering strips us of our idols, the things we value more than God and His Kingdom. Suffering reveals our imperfections and flaws.
Peter also indicates that if we suffer persecution, reproach, and criticism it should be because we live up to the name of Christian. That alone will bring insult upon us. We can endure undeserved suffering because not only do we bear the name of Christ, but we also bear His Spirit. If we suffer reproach, it should not be because we deserve it. Rather we are to avoid living in sin. We are to shun the worldly values of our culture. We are called to live as Christ did, in righteousness, no matter what we may be called to endure. If we are persecuted and insulted, we need not fear, or be ashamed, but rejoice. We are walking in the Father’s will.