Thank you, precious and faithful prayer warriors, for continuing to intercede for us. We are eternally grateful for you! There has been much that has happened since I last updated you.
In March, LeRoy was diagnosed with an additional rare and life-threatening disease. His doctors are quite surprised that he has this additional disease. Based on a biopsy and antibodies found in his lab work, they’ve diagnosed him with GPA (Wegener’s disease). It is a serious vascular disease that can kill organ tissue. Most commonly, the kidneys, lungs, and heart are attacked.
From the beginning of this medical saga, going back all the way to May of 2015 when LeRoy first told me that he was having these strange “yucky” spells and feeling weird, we’ve heard the words “rare,” “unusual,” “strange,” and “unexpected,” many times in reference to his condition. These descriptions underscore the disorienting aspect of this journey.
And yet, each morning of this year, I’ve recorded this admonition at the top of my journal page for the day:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12–13)
Peter, who would be martyred possibly within a year or two of writing these words, composed this letter as a means of encouraging believers who were facing persecution and the threat of death because of their faith in Jesus. LeRoy and I don’t claim to be “martyrs for the faith,” but we do relate to Peter’s warning about trials and the testing that comes along with them.
Three words stand out in this passage, and I want to share them with you today in case you also are needing encouragement during a time of suffering. You and I may never endure the suffering these first century believers faced—but suffering is still hard whatever form it takes. And when we suffer deeply and for long periods of time, we need the stabilizing comfort of truth: the truth breathed from God through His Word to us.
Here are the three words I’m focusing on right now along with a basic understanding of each word’s meaning:
1. Surprised: To be astonished or shocked at the novelty of a thing.
I must admit, I have been shocked, continue to be puzzled by, and find it difficult to adjust to the idea that my husband may never regain his health—that he might always suffer with intense pain. It is indeed quite surprising to me that he is no longer able to stand and deliver gospel messages. The damage that the original disease did to his spinal cord has caused his nervous system to go haywire, sending false messages to his muscles to tighten, when they are already so tight he feels like they might rip off his leg at times. This is shocking and sickening for me to watch.
But Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling us to not be surprised when facing a fiery trial. It is as though Peter is looking at me solemnly and reminding me, “Did you forget that this world is fallen? Do you find it strange that we would be called to endure suffering and use it as a platform to proclaim truths about God in the midst of suffering? Don’t be astonished at this. All suffering, for a believer, is temporary and purposeful.”
When the first century believers went through literal “fiery trials” (being burned alive for their commitment to Christ), they actually viewed it as a privilege to suffer publicly for their Savior—to allow others to see that following Jesus was more valuable to them than their lives. Some accounts record these early believers praising God, rejoicing even, while being put to death for their faith. Incredible thought, isn’t it?
2. Rejoice: To delight in, or experience, God’s grace.
Rejoicing is something we usually do when our circumstances are pleasant, enjoyable, fun or satisfying. Rejoicing is not what comes to mind when we talk about suffering. Yet, Peter exhorts us to rejoice rather than being shocked by the “fiery trial.” Rejoicing in suffering is only possible when we experience God’s grace through recognizing His sovereign purpose in the midst of the pain. And, I must admit, it is a daily battle for me—but a battle I must wage or I’ll be overcome by the enemy’s onslaught of lies.
This truth holds me:
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
God is the One who is upholding me in His hand. He will not abandon us. He is good and His lovingkindness does not fail; it does not end. He has proven that. This is what holds me and even leads me to rejoice in Him in the midst of this painful journey—He is my Beloved, and I am His.
3. Glory: God’s infinite worth.
This is the point of it all: God is worthy of our worship no matter what. And isn’t that what started all of Job’s suffering—the question of worship? Satan accused Job of only being faithful because God had poured out material blessing and goodness on him. Satan claimed that if God would allow him to harm Job, to take away all the blessings God had given, that Job would no longer worship God. But Job knew this truth—God is worthy of our worship no matter what!
Do you know what I’ve learned? When worship is offered during intense suffering, rejoicing happens. My perception clears, the fog of confusion and deception evaporates, the shock of the “fiery trial” fades, and worship sets all things in their proper order in my heart and mind.
The apostle Paul explained it well:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
If you are in a season of suffering or sorrow, dear reader, I pray that Peter’s instructions to us and Paul’s mention of what is coming will encourage your heart today. Not much longer, but soon, we who know Christ will be in His presence forever, and all suffering and sorrow will be banished.