Faith in the Fire: Suffering in All Kinds of Ways

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
-1 Peter 1:6-7

Peter was writing to believers who were suffering in all kinds of ways. They lived in the midst of some of the greatest miracles and revelations of God in all history, yet they also endured some of the most terrible things that people have ever gone through.

It is to our advantage that the early church went through so many, and so severe, troubles. If they hadn’t, we might be tempted to think that our experience in this world is an exception to the rule.

The apostle Peter makes two very helpful and encouraging points here.

First, whatever it is that’s causing us pain, and however devastating it may be, it is purely temporary. It may for the moment be filling up the entire screen for us, but, even though this may seem unbelievable, it is for the moment! And we may feel like our problems or grief will never end. But, as sure as the sun rises each morning, there will come a day when it’s all over and we can look back upon our trial and either just laugh at it or simply reflect upon it with a new sense of maturity and wisdom.

And even if it lasts until our last day on earth, we all know by now that time passes so swiftly that we always seem to ask, “Where did the time go?” The trouble is for “a little while.” As a boy I discovered every year that the school term may seem unending, but inevitably the summer break came.

Secondly, we can be assured that whatever the nature of our temporary troubles, God is using them to perfect us. This life is like the refiner’s fire. The hotter it gets the better it is for us. Like the gold that gets more and more purified, we are getting more and more perfected by our suffering. We may not like this arrangement, for normally we want more and more comfort, but that not the way things always are. Because of our fallen nature, we aren’t likely to be matured and purified by more comfort, ease, and prosperity. If you look at any old saint they didn’t get that way by relaxing on a hammock under a shade tree, but by going through the fire.

In other words, Peter is assuring us that whatever happens to us in this life is for our good and for the growth of our faith. We’re being prepared for something great. Let’s keep in mind that the whole purpose of this life is to grow in trust in a trustworthy God and to spend eternity in his presence—and we have his promise and assurance that he will be with us always, and in every thing. So may our prayers not simply be “Lord, make it easier for me,” but “Lord, fashion me into the image of Jesus your Son.” And that is the goal of the Christian life.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
-Deuteronomy 31:8

John I. Snyder