I grew up in a white, middle-class family, with a mom and dad who loved each other and three brothers that I am still friends with to this day. I don’t know very much about suffering.
True, I have lost a couple friends to suicide. I had an unfaithful wife who left and divorced me before I even knew what had happened. Both my parents had cancer, but they’re in pretty good shape now. I’ve had a few people cut me off in traffic and steal my parking space, but I really don’t have much to complain about.
And I am not complaining. Not really.
But somehow, there is a part of me that longs for some real hardship. And not because I am a masochist. I think I want to face some trials (I think we all do on some level), not because I enjoy pain or sadness, but because I know (as we all somehow do) that the greatest honor and glory come to those who have endured the most.
Peter writes about this in his first letter:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 (emphasis mine)
Peter is telling these folks that they are going to have trouble and trials and grief: all kinds of them. And that their faith will be tested as a result, to see if it is genuine. But the result, the result of all that is the key: Praise. Honor. Glory.
J.R.R. Tolkien once said something to the effect that the best stories are born of pain and suffering and hardship. No one wants to listen to tales of comfort and ease, of some guy sitting in his leather chair watching entire seasons of Friends on Netflix.
We want a story that people will want to listen to.
We have all been shocked and saddened by the recent atrocities carried out by the ISIS terrorists against Egyptian Christians in Libya. Twenty brothers murdered only for their belief in Jesus and refusal to deny him, even in the face of death.
I am really, really saddened by this and grieve with their families, who must be devastated, as I would be if it were my family.
But I hope they, like all who suffer hardship and trial, remember that it is their suffering, their pain and loss and grief, that will one day result in praise and honor and glory. One day they will sit before us and we will look on them with awe and admiration and we will listen to the story about the time they suffered great hardship, greater than most of us will ever know. And I hope I will have a good story or two for them.