1 Peter 4: 12-13 "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on to you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may overjoyed when his glory is revealed."
As Christian, being tested and put into hot soup is not not uncommon. We always bragged that we could survive it because the strength we got from our Heavenly Father. In fact, the more we overcome the 'fiery ordeal' the more solid we were as Christians. We heard praises from Christian community and felt the pride that we were overcomers. Nothing right or wrong about it.
Today when I read this passage, I could not help by looking back into my life. The forming yesteryears were testimonies that life could be shitty and there were times in the past that I wished it did not happened. The foundation that was laid for me by my parents and God has helped me to find hope during those dark periods. I could recall incidences that were 'fiery ordeals' and the sadness and anger and all those negative emotions that rode along with it. I could still feel some of the stings when I thought about it sometimes.
But that is not the message that I got today. The time of reflection was just about a year ago. The turning point probably was the time I quit my job and worked independently on my own. Being blessed with a medical degree, I could still survive even at the downturn of economy. People still get sick and people still dies whether the economy thrive or when it is down. Looking back, dealing the nasty people was hard but God taught me to forgive. Not that easy when the fact that it was so personal. I said personal because I felt the pain and the consequences of nasty comments and also the feeling of being betrayed. How could it not be personal? Prayers somehow soothed the heart. Many times, I wanted to curse but what good it would do? I do not like seeing people suffers anyway.
But I think the hardest ordeal was when nothing was happening. So could you see the contrast? Suffering when too many bad things happening vs suffering when nothing was happening. Some may say it is active vs passive suffering. Is there such a thing? Being actively attacked , you adopted a defensive mode. You prayed, you analysed and then you acted. So the constant activity of defending yourself make you feel you were 'doing' something. You felt useful , you sensed achievement when your enemy or their action were thrown down. Your prayers were answered because you had victory. The suffering diminished when you have the feeling of a winner.
But what was happening for the last month was even harder to swallow because nothing was happening! We assumed a passive role. You looked around you and nothing seems to be moving. Despite effort to get things moving, nothing seems to move! I spoke particularly in area of my work. The diminishing income became worrying. The lack of new business seems to hit where it hurt most - my pocket. And you did not what to do. Even prayers seems hard. You could not pray for more sick people to come to you because such prayers seems so wrong. So here you are, not knowing whether you could pay for your house or loan and you waited!
Could waiting be considered 'fiery ordeal' mentioned be Peter in 1 Peter 4:12? How fiery it is when there was nothing happening around you? But the fear and uncertainty was troubling. It was as strong and real when compared to the persecution by others. Doubt crept in sometimes to challenge your thoughts and prayers. The emotional component of waiting was not any lesser than the active persecution. In fact, it was worse because you could not pray for intervention, as intervention meant suffering of others. So I guess waiting and passive suffering could be equated to 'fiery ordeal'!
Verse 13 says "But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may overjoyed when his glory is revealed." Rejoice as you participate in the suffering of Christ. Rejoice was not easy when all you see was uncertainty. Rejoice was hard when things were just not happening. In order to feel the joy and to celebrate, there must be a reason for the celebration. But here Peter asked us to rejoice! I find it humanly hard. But then the verse continues to say rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the suffering in Christ. How could I even compare my suffering with Christ's. Jesus's suffering was so deep whereas mine was shallow. My Lord went to hell and mine did not even cause a scrape on my skin. And yet Peter said rejoice.
Rejoice as you participate in the sufferings. What I understood from this verse was participate in the suffering. How could that be? How could someone participate in the suffering? But when you felt a sense of hopelessness and experienced so much of uncertainty, Were you not participating in sufferings? Were you not in the midst of a very unpleasant situation? I guessed that was what he meant. I could be wrong. But at the end of it, could we still rejoice when we were in such a situation. Could we still find hope in hopelessness , could we find joy in suffering? I think we could. And the first step was acknowledgement. Acknowledging that passive suffering existed. We do not brush aside something that was real. Acknowledging it validated our emotions and thoughts. We were not dealing with some fiction but facts.
Then we could start experiencing hope. Then we could start to experience a better feeling.Perhaps slight joy. When we could look forward, we could take the next step. I guess that was better than not moving at all. So today's reading has helped me to understand that we could suffer from being too still. But it is OK. Just rejoice in the process and still hope that this stillness would eventually find its momentum to move forward.