On the Other Side

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-7

Rejoice. We love to rejoice. Who doesn’t like to be joyful, happy, satisfied. Funny thing about this short passage though is that we are told to rejoice in something that, to our human ears, is foolishness. We are to rejoice in the middle of our trials. When was the last time you felt like dancing after receiving a bad grade on a test? What about when that paycheck wasn’t as high as you were thinking it was gonna be? Now, those are mere inconveniences compared to what Peter is talking about, but they’re the mundane little things that tend to happen more often. If you think it’s hard to rejoice in such moments, how will you respond in the face of significant hardships?

Now, is it the trials themselves that Peter is instructing us to rejoice over? If someone stomps on your toe, do you smile upon feeling the pain and ask for more? How absurd does that sound? No, Peter suggests that we rejoice in the face of hardship because it will be temporary, and the product of hardship can be something more precious than gold.

Yet, there are two options that we have in facing trouble. We can rejoice at what can be gained or we can lament over what has been lost. Of course, that’s easy to say, but what do you do in the face of suddenly losing a loved one? What about those couples who are desperately trying to conceive, and the results are persistently heartbreaking? You keep on working as hard as you can, but you simply cannot find a job to support yourself and your family. Rejoice in such circumstances? Really?

Let me settle a qualm. I do not think that we should think of rejoicing as something that we always do with an unfading smile on our face and a rapturous song in our lungs. Such rejoicing as Peter is talking about oftentimes must occur through gritted teeth and bitter tears. The call to rejoice is not a call to be fake. Rather, the call is to fix our eyes and our hope on something beyond money, popularity, and even beyond the security of our closest relationships.

Crazy? Yes. Still, such faith results in something that is praiseworthy and honorable. Jesus honors and sings over you in the face of trials and persecution. The last words of verse seven speak about this when Peter states that faith may result in “praise and glory and honor” at the revelation of Jesus Christ. When trouble tests our faith, Jesus glorifies and honors us on the other side of our trouble. We get a full picture of who Christ is through tribulation, and the full measure of his love embraces us in the midst of it.

Stephen was allowed a vision of Christ standing at the right hand of God during the heat of his persecution in the book of Acts. That vision sustained him. In such a vision as this, such a hope, we rejoice: that Christ suffered first, and he supplies us with his strength. Then, on the other side, he will raise us up into the immensity of pure glory because he will share it with us. What that means, I don’t think any of us can really comprehend on this side of things.

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