“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13. Quite simply, it is through the experience of darkness that we learn the value the Light. For who better can understand the true magnitude and beauty of a mountain than one who has experienced the depths of the valley?
We will encounter suffering. Yet, we have nothing to fear. We stand firm in the knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 38-38.
How then, do we find peace within our suffering? The enduring and all-encompassing love of Christ allows us to approach His throne with confidence as we pour out our soul to Him. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
The word “anxious” derives from the Greek word, “merimnao” which means to be divided, distracted, or to go to pieces. How often do we allow worry and anxiety to tear at our souls? Intrusive thoughts can invade our minds and tempt us to remain stuck in the well-worn rut of anxiety and doubt. Familiar messages replay like a broken record, enticing us to become weary with worry. The Lord calls us to place all our anxieties and needs before His throne through prayer, petition, and thanksgiving. “Petition” implies a specific, urgent, deeply personal, and felt need. The word “all” is simply that. All. The Lord desires us to lay our truest selves before Him- our deepest regrets, longings, and fears- our sufferings, worries, and joys.
Notice that the Lord does not promise freedom from our hardships once we have made a request. In this scripture, the Lord promises a peace that transcends all understanding which guards our hearts and minds. In exchange for our anxiety, He offers peace. Taken from the Greek word “eirene”, peace means to join or tie together in a whole. In essence, when life’s hardships, sufferings, and trials pull us apart (merimnao), He gives us the gift of inner-wholeness (eirene).
It is the unmistakable peace of our Lord that allows us to endure and even thrive under hardship. Such peace enables us to weep with hope, suffer with love, and die with joy. This peace, which transcends all understanding, serves as a nourishing and healing balm against this hurting world.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”