How to Handle Hard Things
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you. 1 Peter 4:12
Everything in life is relative! What seems to be a major catastrophe to some is a mere bump in the road to others. Some suffer in silence, never letting others know the pain or heartache they are enduring, while others broadcast the slightest wrong they have suffered.
I’ve been thinking lately of the life of Peter, the bright and blustery fisherman, one of the three comprising the inner circle of men who were closest to Jesus Christ. He was also the one who drew his sword and took a whack at the head of Malchus, the servant of the high priest, when Jesus was taken in the garden. He became the expositor and spokesman on the Day of Pentecost, proudly proclaiming that what they were experiencing had been prophesied by Joel long ago.
Peter wasn’t exactly a scholar or theologian, yet he wrote a powerful letter to Christians living in Asia Minor, warning them of impending difficulties, showing them how to respond to them so that they would grow instead of being destroyed. In this letter he says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12, NKJV).
Question: What is a fiery trial? Another translation puts it, “painful trial.” The word Peter used literally means “fire.” Almost always it was used of fire that consumed something. Used figuratively it means something that, unchecked, will destroy you. Like what? It could be sickness such as cancer. It could be unjust imprisonment. It could be a lawsuit that threatens to wipe you out, or drought that leaves your crops in the field burned and worthless.
Peter gives us guidelines on handling those “fiery trials.” Listen carefully. First, he says, “Don’t be surprised when it happens.” In simple terms, nobody’s exempt from the harsh sinfulness of living in a broken world. Then he says, “Rejoice!” Rejoice? Yes, because you are partaking of Christ’s suffering. He also has a warning. Don’t suffer as one who is evil. He says, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evil doer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.”
Then, says Peter, glorify God in your suffering. And what does that mean? Simply put, to glorify God means to make God look good in the way you handle your fiery trial. You don’t stoop to the same level as those who wrong you. You don’t fight fire with fire. You pray for your enemies and realize a sovereign God will someday have his pay-day— so you don’t concern yourself with taking vengeance. You remind yourself that vengeance is God’s responsibility; yours is to react to wrong and evil as Jesus did.
Finally, says Peter, “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19). That is exactly what the writer of Hebrews had in mind. Following the discussion of heroes of the faith, he writes, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Keeping your eyes upon the Lord—not focused on the fiery trial or the person who is responsible for your pain—is the only solution. Peter, according to tradition, was martyred in Rome, the result of the persecution that came under Nero about 64 A.D.
Fiery trials will only increase in the future, but in the darkness let the world see Christ, who is still the light of the world. It is the path through the fiery trial.
Resource reading: 1 Peter 4: 1-19