Demo of Julie's Bible Reference Library

Monday, August 15, 2011

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; NIV).

Treasured friend,

I daresay this Scripture offers an upside down perspective on caregiving (and the challenges of aging that our parents are enduring). Don’t be surprised that life isn’t what you expected, that it isn’t perfect and sweet and without opposition—that aging happens, and even if you don’t count wrinkles and gray hair, it usually isn’t all that pretty a picture. But instead of wallowing, count it as another opportunity to relate to Christ—and to look toward the joy that awaits us. He showed us how as He endured the cross, despising the shame, all for the “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).

That, I’ve found in recent weeks, is easier preached than accomplished. It’s so much more natural to respond with sullenness to personal setbacks, emotional and physical exhaustion, disappointments in people and circumstances, distressing world conditions. Joy? How can tumbling world markets bring joy? How can broken relationships be a source of rejoicing? How can an injured body make me overjoyed? It would take too many lines for me to list off the litany of grievances that have been getting me down low since I’ve written to you last. And none of them has felt anything near joyful. No, I can’t say I’ve put Peter’s instructions into practice—at all.

Then again, were this response natural, the apostle wouldn’t have had to instruct believers then—or now—to rejoice. The Greek word for rejoice describes greeting something with gladness, saluting it with calm happiness. It can actually be a salutation—“be well.” Be well, spiritually, when physically you’re not. Be well and at peace knowing this isn’t all there is—that there’s a world to come that’s absolutely real and utterly fantastic—its finish never chips or tarnishes, its relationships never end or disappoint, its length is endless--literally. Be well as you remind yourself that the pain of this time and place may be obscuring the truth, but the heavenly reality is still there, behind the storm clouds that will soon pour themselves out and evaporate.

The key, I suppose, comes in the last verse of the chapter:

 So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (1 Peter 4:19, NIV).

Trust God—commit it all to Him because, as Paul would say, “He is able to keep what I’ve committed to Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). So, get it together, Jul. Continue to do what you know is good and right. Don’t look around at others who aren’t living in holiness and yet seem to be enjoying blessings and a cushy life. Think of the way David put it in the Psalms: “don’t fret because of evildoers” (Psalm 37:1). Instead, the Psalm seems to be the source Peter used. Because its prescription and his are so similar: “Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord” (vv. 3-4, NASB). Live where you're living. Do what you know is right and just for you to do as a follower of the Living God. And do it all as service to Him. Then the joy will follow--maybe today, and definitely tomorrow.

It’s a challenge I’m going to make a solid attempt to live up to starting today … how about you?

Blessings and prayers,

© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email: