“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12, NIV).
Surprises, painful surprises, can come in many ways. A car veering across the road into your path. A sudden notification that you’re losing your job. A medical test that gives you unexpected bad news. Betrayal by someone you loved and who you thought loved you. As bad as the pain can be, it’s always made worse by the element of surprise.
This week we will look at a few specific types of painful situations or crucibles that should not take us by surprise.
To begin, let’s go back to 1 Peter 4:12. The Greek word for “surprised” in 1 Peter 4:12 (NIV) means to be “alien” or “foreign.” Peter is urging his readers not to fall into the trap of believing that fiery ordeals and trials are alien to Christian experience. Rather, they are to be considered normal — they can and should be expected.
The word used for “fiery ordeal” (NIV, NRSV) or “fiery trial” (NKJV) comes from another Greek word, and it means “a burning.” In other places it is translated “furnace.” This experience of suffering for our faith could therefore be considered a “smelting process,” the process of the crucible.
Read 1 Peter 4:12-19. What is Peter’s message?
Many of us are surprised about suffering because we often have an oversimplified view of the Christian life. We know there are two sides — God, who is good; and Satan, who is bad. But often we then automatically put everything that feels good in the box with God, and everything that feels bad in the box with Satan. But life is not so simple. We cannot use our feelings to decide what is in God’s box or Satan’s box. Sometimes walking with God can be challenging and hard. And following Satan can appear to bring great rewards. Job, who is righteous yet suffering, illustrates this when he asked God, “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (Job 21:7, NIV).
|Peter was referring to trials that are the consequence of standing up for Christ. But there are also other reasons that trials come. How could 1 Peter 4:12-19 help you to explain tactfully to a friend why not to be surprised at the painful trials he or she might face?|