How often in the midst of turmoil, despair, frustration, suffering, tragedy, grief, and trouble do we just pause and pray, "God, I just want a normal life!" Somehow we've bought into the notion that "normal" means good health, minimal (if any) suffering, financial prosperity, freedom from stress, consistently happy, relative comfort, and a general sense of calm. In fact, we're surprised when bad things do happen and we're confronted with suffering.
Even a casual reading of Scripture reveals to us that the "normal" Christian life involves much pain, great suffering, many trials and tribulations, multiple problems, and consistent frustration. Our study through 1 Peter has already uncovered this truth in 1:6-7 where Peter tells us that we're to rejoice in the living hope that is ours in Christ, even though for a while we'll have to be grieved by various trials so that our faith may be tested and ultimately result in praise and glory to Christ. And now again in this week's passage Peter reminds us, the readers:
"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." (1 Pet 4:12)
Apparently some of the believers who were undergoing trials in the time of Peter were caught off guard by these hardships. Thus, Peter reminds them not to be shocked nor think it strange that trials, sufferings, hardships, and problems are common in the lives of those who follow Christ. Even Jesus said:
"In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (Jn 16:33)
We need to re-think what we expect to be the "normal" Christian life and how we should then live with this new understanding of living in a broken world where problems, persecutions, insults, suffering, and difficulties are commonplace.
Peter addresses this in 1 Peter 4:12-19. Please prayerfully read through this passage as you prepare your heart for this Sunday's worship service where we will examine what kind of suffering Peter is referring to and how we're to live in response to it. And if able, read these other passages that support this understanding of the normal Christian life - Deut 4:30; Psa 119:67; Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3; Rom 8:18; 2 Cor 4:16; 1Thess 3:4; James 1:2-3