Participating in Suffering?

Nancy Hatcher, Volunteer Writer, South Barrington | May 9, 2023

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  

1 Peter 4: 12-13

My eyes overflow as I pen this opening thought, and with pain, I admit this;  I question the why of suffering at least every other day.

My father hid my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis for three years. He couldn’t admit it even to himself. Then one day, a doctor abruptly explained that she was in “Stage 2” before I even knew Alzheimer’s had stages. Overnight, my God-loving, sweet mother, who cared for others before herself, became a wandering, paranoid, upset soul. She pushed me away. My snuggly mom, who loved so well, had changed. She suffered, and I was miserable. 

Peter says in the above verse, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you…”

But I am. Every single time.

Maybe you’re facing enormous suffering as you read this. Maybe you’re living your nightmare with open hands and an open heart. Maybe you aren’t there—yet, but in this passage, Peter also directs us to “rejoice.”

Today I researched Peter. How does he get to this place where he writes that suffering for Christ is a privilege and a way to participate in God’s glory?

In Peter’s ministry, non-believers flogged and imprisoned him for his faith. Peter expected his eventual execution and wrote as much to the scattered Christ followers experiencing similar treatment as they held their breath waiting for Christ’s return. His message gave Christians hope and strength to know that the Holy Spirit is in us and goes through the suffering with us.

In the last few months of my mom’s life, we sat close in her sunny living room and listened over and over again to the great hymns of our faith. She would sing and cry, and so would I. God reached down and hugged both of us in those hours. 

He gradually pulled her to Himself and taught me how to open my hands, reach for Him, and trust him in the midst of pain.

But those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:31)

Next Steps 

During this season and in many others, I’ve prayed “breath prayers,” simple, short prayers you can pray in a breath. An example: would be, inhale the words, “Lord, I love you.” Exhale “Keep Mom safe.” Consider trying this to draw yourself closer to God in the midst of your difficulties. 

The Psalms are a beautiful place in the Bible to land when life feels especially difficult. Consider reading one a day if you are in a hard season.