“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (I Peter 4:12)
We are often befuddled when trials poke their noses into our lives. We cringe at their unwelcome presence, startled that we are made to experience pain, aggravations, or inconveniences. We live under the misguided assumption that since we are children of the Almighty he will buffer us from all kinds of suffering. Usually, we are ill prepared and put out by it all.
The comparison that comes to mind is of a pregnant woman taken by surprise at the prospect of going into labor. Although she has been “expecting” a baby for nine months, she is suddenly bewildered at the thought that intense labor and delivery are actually involved in this pregnancy process. We would think her completely irrational if her words were, “I can’t believe God would ask me to go into labor!” We are just as ludicrous if we presume that suffering is not part and parcel of a Christian’s life.
In that vein, the apostle Peter addresses us tenderly as “Beloved” and urges us to expect testing. We are to anticipate that they will arrive in one fashion or another and ultimately to understand that they are a test God has allowed. No scholar is surprised that tests are a routine part of school. No Christian should be caught by surprise in this regard, either.
When he tests us, he is revealing to us what is in our heart and the strength of our faith. Peter experienced his overwhelming share of testing and was in the perfect position to challenge us to be prepared for ours. Trials and testing are inevitable. The Master is warning us so we can be prepared.
In a way God is saying, “Will you hold this burden for me? You may not understand now why I am asking this of you. You need not understand, really. I promise you I will bring good from what you are enduring. My Scriptures are packed with many such outcomes. If you will allow me, I will bring glory to my name through this. As you endure this cumbersome, unwelcome trial, it will shape you into a vessel I will use for an eternal purpose. Trust me on this. Take the focus off of what is happening to you and look ahead to what I will accomplish through you.”
In light of this, Peter finishes this portion of his letter with a necessary reminder: “Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (I Peter 4:19). Our Creator has a clear purpose for everything he designed. He will ensure that even trials line up accordingly.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell