“Finding Joy in Suffering”

“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 undefined 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 suffering 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 in 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.

Comfort as we have been comforted

“Blessed be the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1.3-5

Once during Queen Victoria’s reign, she heard that the wife of a common laborer had lost her baby. Having experienced deep sorrow herself, she felt moved to express her sympathy. So she called on the bereaved woman one day and spent some time with her. After she left, the neighbors asked what the queen had said. “Nothing,” replied the grieving mother. “She simply put her hands on mine, and we silently wept together.” – source unknown

Sometimes the giving of comfort involves the simple act of just being with someone. No words of advice, no action to follow up on, just the simple act of being with someone and holding their hand during their time of grief. Especially if you have been in their place, you know what you would have wanted in being comforted.

The word “comfort” is mentioned six times by Paul in these few verses. The word itself means to be called along side of. The word pictures two objects paralleling each other with the weaker one leaning on the stronger one for support. I have used this word numerous times while cycling with friends. Some days you feel good while riding, yet somedays while climbing a hill you don’t seem to have the energy to make it up. I have on occasion come along side a weaker rider and place my hand on their back and while using the strength in my own legs push them up the hill to encourage them so they do not fall behind. Why do I do that, because someone else has done that for me.

Probably everyone of us have experience afflictions in life. Paul promises that God will “comfort us in ALL our affliction” with the sole purpose “that we will be able to comfort those who are in ANY affliction.” Where does the source of our comfort come from, from Christ and His sufferings and they “are ours in abundance.” They are excessive and abound more than we could ever imagine or think. This is the beauty of God’s grace and the church.

What is our role as comforters? To come along side others and share in their suffering so that they may share in our comfort that comes from God (2 Cor. 1.7). A great book on this is “Comfort the Grieving” by Paul Tautges published by Zondervan. Therefore, comfort one another in Christ.