It says in James 1:2 to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” But is all suffering supposed to bring us joy?
According to Peter, the answer is a resounding “No”.
He is a little more specific with this same instruction. He says “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. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14) Peter has placed some qualifiers on the suffering. Let’s take a look.
First he says don’t be surprised at trials, they are there to test you. He even refers to “fiery” trials. The concept of being ‘tested by fire’ actually comes from the concept of testing or refining fine metals. The fire is used to separate the filler metals from the finer metals. The end result of that ‘fiery trial’ is that the filler metals are separated and the finer metal is now in a form that can be molded into the shape of the maker’s choice. Fiery trials are just that for us. They melt away our weaknesses and soften us to be molded into the shape God intends.
Peter also places another qualifier here. He says ‘rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s suffering’. If you face mockery or ridicule or persecution as a result in ‘sharing in Christ’, then those trials should bring you absolute joy. Those trials are because the enemy as identified you as belonging to Christ and is not pleased. There are two wonderful points here. The enemy (who hates Christ) sees that you are with Christ. Since Satan can see through the external shell into reality, he’s not afraid of the people who have a Jesus bumper sticker but don’t live for Christ. He’s afraid of the people who have a real change in their life caused by the Holy Spirit living in them. Since he has absolutely no power over that Spirit in you, he seeks to temp you in casting out the Spirit on your own. Count these trials as joy.
Peter also follows this statement with one more… “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (1 Peter 4:15) When the suffering comes as a result of your own poor actions, these are not the sufferings you should seek joy in. Those are there to warn you, to teach you, that the decisions you have made in your own free will, are not what God calls you to. God still allows these sufferings but they are more like the discipline of your child. You love your child so much that you allow suffering (through grounding or punishment or natural consequences) as a way to hopefully steer their free will back to the direction of God. Yes, those sufferings are there for you, to help you, but they are not there for joy.
Recognize the suffering you face. If it is the corrective suffering to steer you back on course, change your course. If it is the suffering because you are united with Christ and have put fear in the enemy, count it as joy.