By Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015)
I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high! — Psalm 69.29
The apostle Peter writes, “My friends, do not be bewildered by the fiery ordeal that is upon you, as though it were something extraordinary. It gives you a share in Christ’s sufferings, and that is cause for joy.”
When we remember that Peter was writing his letter to exiles, we can try to imagine all the various kinds of suffering that were involved for them. Peter had been through a few mills himself, and understood deeply how they were feeling and the quite natural human tendency to be bewildered when you’re in the middle of trouble. Don’t be, he says.
He does not deny that it is “fiery.” He calls it an ordeal. That’s honest. But he tells them it’s nothing out of the ordinary. It is what all of us ought to expect in one form or another, as long as we’re following Jesus.
What else should we expect? Jesus said we would have to give up the right to ourselves, take up His cross, and follow. He said we would have to enter the Kingdom of God “through much tribulation.” We bargained for a steep and narrow road—why should we be bewildered to find it steep and narrow?
The thrilling, heart-lifting truth that Peter speaks of is that in this very ordeal, whatever it is, we are being granted an unspeakably high privilege: a share in Christ’s sufferings, and that, Peter says, is cause for joy.
Sometimes people wonder how on earth their kind of trouble can possibly have anything to do with Christ’s sufferings. Ours are certainly nothing in comparison with His. We are not being crucified. Our burden is certainly not the weight of the sins of the world. No. But in all our afflictions He is afflicted.
We are together in them. If we receive them in faith—faith that they are permitted by a Father who loves us, faith that He has an eternal purpose in them—we can offer them back to Him so that He can transform them. If, like Paul, we want to know Him and the power of His resurrection, we must also know the fellowship of His sufferings. The only way to enter that fellowship is to suffer. Can we say, Yes, Lord—even to that?
*Excerpt from Exulting in Suffering from Elisabeth Elliot’s Newsletter.