In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7
How can you have joy in the midst of pain? That’s a tough one.
When I was a little league baseball player, I had a coach who was ambidextrous. He could literally throw batting practice with both hands. When his right arm got tired, he simply went to his left. The last time I threw batting I threw out my shoulder, and I’ve never recovered.
God gives us the resources for a faith that is ambidextrous. Joy and Pain. Sunshine and Rain. We have to handle both. What do I mean by that?
On the one hand, as followers of Jesus, we acknowledge that pain and suffering are real. We don’t minimize the trials. We don’t put a thin coat of cheap paint over the stains and pretend that everything looks pretty. When people get sick and die, we grieve. When horrible things happen, we mourn. Jesus wept when he heard that his friend Lazarus had died.
On the other hand, Jesus gives us joy. Peter’s letter helps us begin to make sense of this. First, he reminds us that grief and trials are real, but they’re “for a little while.” What’s hard, though, is when we don’t know how long they’ll last. If you’re running five miles or doing 100 burpees, it’s a lot more bearable when you know the finish line. Sometimes you get to the end, take a breath, and say, “That wasn’t really that bad.” Of course you don’t feel that way when you’re in the middle of the trial. Without a finish line, it’s hard to stay motivated to endure the pain. It’s easy to quit.
That’s where purpose comes in. Jesus gives us both a finish line and a purpose. One day, already marked on the calendar by God, we will die and enter into the presence of our Lord. We don’t know exactly what that will look like. That’s a whole new conversation about salvation, faith, and grace. We’ll talk more about that as we journey together.
But we do know this. Jesus died. Jesus rose. Joy awaits us at the finish line. And we can have joy now in the pain because Jesus is with us every step of the way!
Father, help me to find joy in the middle of my pain and uncertainty.