Scripture:Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while continuing to do good. (1 Peter 4:12-14, 16, 19)
Reflection: Just reading the word, “suffering,” is enough to repel most people. “Suffering” bears a negative connotation; no one wants to suffer. And yet there is a message about good suffering in the First Letter of Peter. Not only does the anonymous author write about good suffering, but he urges his readers to rejoice in suffering. He does this because he understands that when Christians suffer in any way, they are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Thus when some kind of fiery ordeal comes their way, Christians see it as an opportunity to display their faithfulness and rejoice in their suffering.
Good suffering serves the Christian well for several reasons. First, just like Jesus’s suffering gave glory to God, the suffering of Christians gives glory to God, that is, it praises God’s wisdom and power. Second, those who are reviled for bearing the name of Christian will be blessed when Christ returns in glory. Third, those who profess Jesus’s name are held to a higher standard than nonbelievers, according to this letter. They honor God with even more trust as they go from one good suffering experience to the next. Fourth, good suffering is a sign that the Holy Spirit is resting upon the believer, strengthening him or her to bear good suffering in imitation of the one he or she follows.
A spirituality of mission understands that one cost of discipleship is suffering. However, it is not a negative suffering, as the culture proposes that all suffering is and must be eradicated as quickly as possible with drugs, surgery, or psychological treatment. In a spirituality of mission, one views suffering as good, as a small price to pay to be a follower of Christ, that is, being known as a Christian, also knows that he or she is blessed, because the Spirit of God is resting upon him or her.
Journal/Meditation:In what ways have you experienced good suffering? What blessings were disclosed to you?
Prayer: Blessed are you, O God, for you send fiery ordeals to test those who follow your Son, Jesus Christ. Send the Holy Spirit to rest upon me when I share in Christ’s sufferings, that I may glorify you because I bear his name. I entrust myself to you, the faithful Creator, who enables me to do good and to praise you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.