“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12,13).
CONCERNING SUFFERING IN THIS LIFE, THE QUESTION IS NOT WHETHER WE’LL SUFFER BUT SIMPLY HOW WE’LL DEAL WITH IT. All of us will encounter hardships and heartaches during the days of our pilgrimage. Some of these pains we’ll bring upon ourselves; others will be unprovoked and undeserved. In every case, however, there is one crucial thing that lies within our control: love.
When we’re called upon to endure any kind of unpleasantness, our frame of mind is a matter of choice on our part. Why not, then, see our suffering through the eyes of love? If we have no honorable choice but to suffer, we can at least choose to suffer lovingly. From the list of possible reasons why we would submit to pain, we can select love and let that be our motive.
It’s important to recognize that without love suffering has relatively little value, at least from the standpoint of the Christian. Paul went so far as to say, “Though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). What a tragedy it would be to have drunk the bitter dregs of disappointment and defeat in this life, perhaps even being persecuted as a Christian, and then to find out that, because we had no love, our suffering was nothing more than . . . suffering.
With love, though, suffering is transformed. It’s not that the suffering goes away. It’s simply that when motivated by love an ordeal becomes an ordeal with a high meaning and a glorious goal. It’s hard to imagine how Jesus could have gotten through Gethsemane without this perspective: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
So “rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings.” When you suffer, make sure you do it with a heart of love. Appreciate the privilege of suffering with Christ. Whatever you must endure, endure it not with bitterness or self-righteousness but with humility and reverence. Think of patience as a gift you can give to your Father: a token of real, deep-down gratitude.
“Love makes the whole difference between an execution and a martyrdom” (Evelyn Underhill).