Yesterday we saw that unlike the lifeless hope embraced by non-believers, Christians possess a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). This living hope includes an imperishable inheritance that we, though having it in part already, will one day enjoy it to the fullest (vv. 4–5).
In today’s passage, Peter tells us that the natural response to this hope is to rejoice in it. Moreover, we must rejoice in it even in the midst of the various trials that may come our way as we endeavor to live before the face of God (v. 6).
We can rejoice in this hope, despite our sufferings, for several reasons. First, verses 3–5 describe a hope that is sure and not in vain. Secondly, we can rejoice in this hope because it is “imperishable” (v. 4). Trials will come and grieve us, though it will only be for a little while (v. 6); they will not last forever. Even if we suffer our entire lives, that period of time cannot be compared with the eternal joy that we shall experience when Christ consummates His kingdom.
We can also rejoice in our hope in the midst of suffering because it contributes to our eternal happiness. Suffering tests and strengthens our faith (v. 7). Just as fire burns up dross and leaves valuable gold behind, so too does God use times of trial to purify our faith in Him. When we rejoice in our eternal hope in the midst of suffering, we testify that God indeed is still working in us to remove our trust in anything other than Himself. As God purifies our faith over our lifetimes, our faith will become all the more praiseworthy (v. 7) — not because our effort is in itself worthy of God’s praise but because God graciously deems our trust in Him to be honorable.
Finally, this passage shows us that Christians alone can have true joy even in the midst of suffering. As Calvin says, “the faithful are not logs of wood, nor have they so divested themselves of human feelings, but that they are affected with sorrow, fear, danger, and feel poverty as an evil, and persecutions as hard and difficult to be borne. Hence they experience sorrow from evils; but it is so mitigated by faith, that they cease not at the same time to rejoice.” Even when life seems impossible, we can rejoice in the gift of our salvation.
Christian joy neither stoically denies the hardships of life nor pretends that we are happy when we are deeply sad. While we live in this fallen world, grief and joy exist together. We grieve because life is hard and because pain is real. But in faith we can rejoice, looking forward to the day when all will be renewed, knowing that Christ’s resurrection guarantees this hope. Find someone with whom you can share your grief and who will help you rejoice in your eternal hope.