How long is that? Too long when it’s hurtful. Peter, the disciple who had an allergic reaction to suffering the first time he heard it from Christ (Matthew 16:22), grew to understand its purpose. He put it in perspective so his readers could embrace it, not with quiet resignation but with blazing hope. Called “the apostle of hope,” Peter puts suffering in the context of the return of Christ and an eternity with the Bridegroom. Even an entire life of hardship, when seen from the view of forever, is an unbalanced fraction. God has mercy.
Peter writes, “In this (the coming of the King and an eternal inheritance) you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials” (I Peter 1:6). Then he takes exiles in a hostile world through some scenarios of suffering for “a little while:”
- Abstaining from the passions of the flesh, an all-out war (2:11).
- Living in an unfriendly world as aliens (2:12).
- Daily mistreatment from an overbearing boss (2:18-20).
- Marriage with a spouse who does not share our values (3:1-6).
The greatest reason to embrace redemptive suffering is that the Son of God did: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (2:21). And how did he do this, so we can learn this difficult assignment? Three ways:
- He kept His mouth shut (“when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten”).
- He kept His conscience clear (“He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips”).
- He kept His heart open (“He trusted to him who judges justly”).
When we suffer, it’s hard not to say something. Completely natural. We wouldn’t mind pain if it didn’t hurt. What hurts gets our attention, and something comes out of our mouths. Peter encourages us to watch what does. The first thing that came out of his at the thought of hardship brought a painfully embarrassing rebuke from someone who knew what He was talking about (Matthew 16:23), because Peter didn’t. May God give us grace to check our words in the face of difficulty.
We’re not only tempted to say something wrong but also to do something stupid. A bitter or reactionary response may rob us of the grace we need to go through hardship and win. Hopefully, we can continue to trust Him who judges justly.
It’s one thing to suffer; another thing completely to suffer like Jesus did. That has power to influence those on the other end of our pain (2:12; 3:1,2). Suffering will change us, but righteous suffering can also change a boss, a mate, a hostile pagan. It is happening every day all over the world. Maybe it can happen in your life as well. Sister, brother: perhaps you are going through a horrendous battle. We weep with you in your sorrow. May God bring you through. And may you experience His healing, comfort, victory, vindication!