How do I find joy in suffering? Dr. Peter Lee explains how our suffering in this world can help us to experience the joy of knowing Jesus Christ more fully.
1 Peter 4:12–13, the Apostle Peter tells us, “Don’t be surprised by the fire ordeal that you’re going through as if something strange is happening to you,” and then he goes on to say, “but to rejoice because you share in the sufferings of Christ.”
Suffering is Normal
He first tells us, “Don’t be surprised as if something strange is happening to you,” because nothing strange is happening to you. We are called to expect this. There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with your faith. And perhaps more importantly, there’s nothing wrong with God.
We are to Share in Christ’s Suffering
How much do we really want to know Jesus?But then he tells us to rejoice. And he tells us, ironically, to rejoice really because we share in the sufferings of Christ. Now, that’s not perhaps a way that we would normally think through this. We don’t normally think of joy connected with suffering. How is suffering going to bring joy? You see, Peter doesn’t talk about suffering in general. He talks about suffering with Jesus, sharing in Jesus’s suffering as a source of joy.
See, the question I think we need to wrestle with is this, folks: How much do we really want to know Jesus? If you think about it, I dare say that what we think about is we really want to know the glory of Christ, that is to be justified in Christ, to be sanctified in Christ, to be adopted in Christ, to be glorified with Christ. We think of the great blessings that we have in Jesus, and that’s what we want to know. But when we think about the suffering of Jesus, that’s something that doesn’t really catch us as something terribly exciting.
To Suffer is to Know Christ
You take away the Christlike pain and you take away the Christian’s joy because they will never really understand and know Jesus.And you want to know something? If you have one, that is his glory, without the other, that is his suffering, then you never really will know Jesus. And isn’t that the joy of the Christian, to really know Jesus? And that’s what the Apostle Peter here is really stressing. It’s not suffering that he wants us to know, but it’s a suffering of Christ that he wants us to know. It’s not just hardship and pain that he wants us to know. It is a hardship and pain of Christ that he wants us to know because only by knowing Jesus holistically, completely in his suffering and his glory, only then will we know the whole Christ. And in that sense, only then can we truly have a joy unspeakable. You take away the Christlike pain and you take away the Christian’s joy because they will never really understand and know Jesus.
You can read more about experiencing joy through suffering in Dr. Lee’s new book, Joy Unspeakable: Finding Joy in Christ-like Suffering.