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. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. – 1 Peter 4:12-19
During WWII the British endured much hardship, suffering, fear, and dread as 60,595 British were killed by Axis bombers. This was certainly a time for the famous British stiff upper lip. Even before the bombing began a motivational poster saying, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was produced by the British government in 1939 in preparation for World War II. The poster was intended to raise the morale of the British public, threatened with widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities.
Peter calls for the early Christians to something possibly similar, but far more grounded in the certainty of God’s goodness and promises in Jesus. His counsel was not to be surprised, and to draw near to God, seeking his comfort and the assurance of his presence.
Years ago a church member was experiencing severe injustice. I was able to offer a deeper comfort. I reminded her that whenever we face unjust treatment we are more deeply in fellowship with Jesus – if we draw close to him and seek his help. That’s the key.
When we suffer unjustly, we can choose to raise a fist in frustration, demanding that God explain himself! That’s truly what we do when we cry “foul” in the face of persecution, rather than calling out, “Lord, have mercy!”
In those times of testing, trial, terror, and trouble, we are not to be surprised. Jesus endured an even greater injustice. For God not only allowed his Son to be put “in the dock” (as C.S. Lewis would express it), but even to be slain by sinful man. He endured the most grave form of injustice so that we might receive his mercy and grace.
More than not being surprised, moreover, God invites us to turn to him in humility and faith. Better than the WWII saying are these words: Keep the Faith and Do Good.