“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6).
WHEN PETER SAID THAT WE MAY BE “GRIEVED BY VARIOUS TRIALS,” HE SPOKE A TRUTH THAT HAS BEEN BORNE OUT IN THE EXPERIENCE OF MOST OF US. This world is far from what it would have been had sin never entered the picture. It is a “vale of tears,” a place where sorrow and suffering are the common lot of all.
But the suffering is only one side of the truth, at least as far as Christians are concerned. If we suffer, we also “greatly rejoice.” Ironic though it may seem, we are able, because of our hope in Christ, to rejoice even while we suffer. When Paul spoke of the difficulties that might have to be encountered by the Christian, he said, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). God does not eliminate the possibility of difficulty having to be endured; He gives us a hope that will see us through the difficulties. Indeed, it is in all these things — not despite them — that we are more than conquerors.
It is a pity if we ever ignore or underestimate the difference that hope makes in the life of the Christian. Yet we have a tendency to do that. If we’ve been Christians very long, we may not remember what it was like to try to deal with the sufferings of this life with no hope of anything better. But one hour back in that situation would remind us how valuable our hope is.
We need to face the fact: if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then we are still dead in our sins and there is no hope (1 Corinthians 15:14–19). Take away the eternal hope, and Christianity is not a “nice way to live.” It is a pathetic joke.
But the hope of the Christian is real, and we need to rejoice in the difference it makes in the quality of our lives. We, like our brother Paul, “are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8–10). If it weren’t for Christ, there are days when the darkness would be too dark, and the pain too painful, to pretend that this life is worth living.
“If it were not for hope the heart would break” (English Proverb).