The Building Blocks of Joy and Grief
Most people would like troubles to go away, so that they can 'get on with the rest of their life'. However, it is our reaction to unwanted distress which shapes much of our character and conditions the rest of our lives. The Christian's starting point in trouble should be joyful gratitude for God's mercy and grace in salvation; and for His promise not to withhold what is good (Psalm 84:11; Romans 8:32). When praise sets the scene, difficulties become God's tools. (2 Chronicles 20:20-22).
Peter was writing to churches whose suffering was multi-dimensional. We do not know the details but persecution around the world today is expressed in ridicule, beatings, prison, separation from loved ones; homes torn down, burned or looted, personal assaults … the list might go on. Peter does not need to itemise the different ways in which their faith was being be tested. However, he assures them that their grief would be temporary, and that their suffering was not pointless - but was all included in the Lord’s plan. Their faithfulness through such trials would result in great honour going to the Lord, and great reward to them.
Christians are not immune to grief. It will come to us all. But it only comes with Father God's permission and accompanied by His grace (1 Corinthians 10:13), so that His greater glory may be seen. Although faith might seem easy in church, the times of testing prove if it is genuine (James 1:2-4). When we depend on comforting fellowship rather than the Holy Spirit; when fearful thoughts displace prayer, or planning 'how to cope' replaces Bible reading – something is wrong. Mature faith, however, knows the comfort of God (2 Corinthians 1:3), keeps praying and looks to God's Word first - especially when the difficulties bring significant grief. Learning how to deal with distress in a Godly way is the Lord’s way of refining us so that our faith will grow, and His Glory will glow!
As we advance in the school of faith, the examinations get harder. The purpose of exams is not to disable the student, but to demonstrate what has been learned. It is just the same with our Christian faith. Our flesh likes to think that we can succeed by ourselves. But we cannot! Every day we need Jesus to save us from sin, to guide, protect, comfort, heal and strengthen us to serve Him. So, each trouble, trial, test (with their accompanying grief) is designed to reveal how much we have learned to trust in Jesus. The final exam is when He comes back and asks us about everything, face to face. But for today, each difficulty at work or home is a preparation for that great day. For those in the workplace, your reaction to difficulties may say more about your faith than you have imagined.
© Dr Paul Adams