“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13
Lord, let me take this thought in mind every moment of every day and any time that I am going through suffering, especially due to my walk in You. I need to keep this word in mind and heart because, if I am a believer, I will share in Your sufferings. And as it is happening in my life, how will I respond? Like You? As You command?
How can You just command me to rejoice? Is that how it goes? Because Peter is inspired by You and commands me to rejoice in my suffering, I should obey and rejoice? I just turn my feelings off and pretend to be happy? I just bubble over in the midst of hardships? It just doesn’t seem natural.
But isn’t that Your point? It’s not natural. This is all supernatural. It’s not the normal reaction or response. But then again, the normal reaction or response is for “man” to provide his own joy at all cost and to escape pain at any cost. But the truth and reality is that you can’t go through life without experiencing pain. So how do we rejoice always? Well, the answer is in You and You alone. As Paul says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” Yeah, that was written from a man in a Roman prison. If he could rejoice in the midst of sharing Christ’s sufferings, I think I can heed his advice.
I don’t get to just dwell on the rejoicing part only when I’m going through suffering as a believer as though that is the only part of this “formula.” But if I learn to rejoice then, the result will be a beautiful and deeper relationship with God in Christ. The more I can remember that Christ is in every aspect of my life, guiding and directing, molding and shaping me, and those around me; that this is not an accident but God-ordained for His purposes; that You have entrusted and equipped me to step into the “shoes of Christ” and live like him or even die like him- the closer that draws me to You so that, the result is, as I rejoice, I experience You even more and that revelation fills me with even more joy.
This isn’t about happiness because my pain has been removed. It’s the whole knowing that everything begins and exists and is and will be because of You, God. Because I know that “In the beginning, God…,” I can know that You are still “casting, producing and directing” things, even in my life. You are sovereign. Joy isn’t because I escape some oppressive experience but it’s the expression of my relationship with You that no oppressive experience can rob me of.
This is what Paul learned and wanted us to see when he wrote, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39) Ultimate joy does not come in escaping this world or its troubles. True joy comes from fellowship shared with You God and then with others who are Yours as well. It’s a celebration of You and being Yours.
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12) I need to learn to rejoice in You Lord because EVERYTHING comes from You. There is nothing in this life that is not given by You. Unless You give it I have nothing, “no money, no job, no status, no possessions, no family, no friends, no government or community…” (Skip Moen) And life is so much more than anything this world can offer because You are LIFE. If my desires and hope are set on You, losing things of this world, no matter how painful, won’t mean so much, won’t effect me so much, because this isn’t my final destination, my final home.
Face it, no one, not my spouse or even my dearest friend can care for me forever. Nothing in this world is forever. But in You, in the world that is made of You, in that relationship, I am cared for and equipped for eternity. And this is an eternity in You and for You and because of You. I wish I would weigh out that reality more when I go through struggles, that I would place the reality of that struggle in one hand and the reality of You and Your presence and Your love and Your future for me (and even Your presence with me) in the other, and realize the truth of what I have in You. When I do, it’s like this life isn’t even close to reality compared to what You offer.
What would I do to grasp fellowship with You, God? Would I be glad to participate in the suffering of Your Son? Would I gladly share in it for the joy of the relationship of fellowship with You and my brethren in Christ? What would I willingly and gladly be denied of in order to make Your truth more real in my life and in the lives around me?
Jesus, you weren’t joking when you said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) But I guess we are more Greek in our thinking than Christ-like. It’s hard to deny our own immediate pleasure. But I want to rejoice in You more than in any temporary pleasure I can find in this world. I want to follow hard after You. I want to be in You and You in me. Help me to deny myself and join You in Your sufferings that I might be filled with the fullness of the joy that is found in following You, in knowing You, in being Yours.
Be sovereign in my life. Let me rejoice, always, no matter what, in You. Let me understand the fellowship of You in Your suffering, and the fellowship that Paul and Silas had with You as they were beaten and thrown in prison, and even unto death. Let me understand and live in the joy of Your fellowship always, despite the circumstances surrounding me. Because the truth is, You will never leave or forsake me. You walk with me through the shadow of death. The truth is, Psalm 23 is not for sissies. But it is for those people whose deepest desire is to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, to pursue that relationship with You as their very breath. I can rejoice in that.