Purifying Affliction

by

Sometimes life can be overwhelming. Troubles and afflictions can seem to come in waves. One washes over us only to be replaced with another, and another, in seemingly endless repetition. We fight to catch our breath and stay afloat. But before long, we find ourselves questioning God. “Why are You treating me this way?” we ask. “How long must I go through this?”

Where do we turn for help at times like this? One of my favorite places to turn for help is 1 Peter 1:6–7. Here, Peter reminds us that joy and grief can coexist in the Christian life, because grief is circumstantial but joy is not. Joy, as Peter reminds us, is grounded not upon what happens in our lives but upon all that God has done and even now is doing in and for us through Jesus Christ. He “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” and “to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (vv. 3–4). We do not rejoice in our circumstances; we rejoice in God and all that He is for us in Christ.

Interestingly, however, this also affects our circumstances. That is Peter’s whole point in vv. 6–7. The circumstances that bring grief into our lives are intended by God to purify our faith so that it will be genuine to the end. Peter’s reasoning goes like this: if gold is purified through fire, such that all the impurities (the things that are not really gold) are removed and what remains is genuine gold, and if faith is “more precious than gold,” then it only makes sense that faith should be purified through fire as well, so that all the impurities (the things that are not really faith) can be removed. The end result of this process of purification is that nothing but genuine faith remains in the end.

In other words, purification is necessary to ensure that our faith will “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Just as the fire is necessary to purify the gold—such that genuine gold remains in the end—so the fire is necessary to purify our faith—such that genuine faith remains in the end. And genuine faith is the only thing that will ensure we “obtain … the salvation of our souls” (v. 9).

The seventeenth-century Scottish Puritan Samuel Rutherford once summarized the message of 1 Peter 1:6–7 by saying that when we get to heaven and look back over the circumstances of our lives, we will see that God had done only what was necessary in our lives to bring us to heaven and that, had He done anything other than what He did, we would never have come to enjoy the “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17) that we will then be enjoying.

Hold fast in your affliction, my friends. For by it, God is ensuring your place in glory. 

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.