Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~ I Peter 1:3-9
Over the next few weeks we'll get several readings from 1 Peter, and with it, several references to suffering - including rejoicing through suffering.
I'll admit that it isn't my favorite letter. When taken from our context, it does make our faith seem very works oriented, with a heavy emphasis on finding joy in your pain - not always helpful when grief is overwhelming you.
All of which reminds us that it is always good to look at the context in which it is written.
It was written to a people who were suffering - who were being persecuted. It was written to a people who were being accused by their persecutors of immoral behavior, and being kicked out of their families.
It was written to bolster them. To give them hope.
To let them know that the suffering they were enduring would not last.
That while this life was perishable, God is not. Life itself in its fullness is not perishable.
We aren't be persecuted. Most of us won't find a terrible, torturous death waiting for us. Most of us won't be kicked out of our families for our faith.
But the promise of an imperishable inheritance is still ours.
Hope is still ours.
Gracious God, teach me to find hope in the midst of pain, even when all feels lost. Amen