April 22, 2010

Rejoicing with Bloodied Lips 
by John UpChurch, Editor, Jesus.org

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  (1 Peter 4:12-13, NASB)

I never wanted to be in one of those comedies where everything seems to go wrong for the main characters. You may know the kind I mean. A couple buys a dream home only to find that the beauty hides a horrible interior. Some new coach of a down-on-their-luck baseball team must overcome painfully bad skills to capture the tournament. Those plots always seem hilarious—until you live through something like that.

Recently, my family did the unthinkable. We left our comfort zone, crammed everything into boxes and a huge truck, and moved eight hours away from home. Being planners, we tried to do everything the "right" way: making a budget, scouting a place to live, and organizing our schedule. The UpChurch moving plan had everything in order and seemed logistically sound.

Reality bloodied our lips.

We arrived for our meeting with the leasing agent of our new apartment home and waited—and waited. Several hours and phone messages later, we realized he wasn't coming. On the other hand, our moving truck was. We had no keys and no place to unload our stuff. Amazing how a perfect plan falls apart when only one detail doesn't work.

After a mad scramble—which everyone says will be funny someday—we delayed our movers, considered alternatives, and finally made contact with the leasing agent. The good news? We had an apartment. The you've-got-to-be-kidding me news? It was not the one we wanted. (Read: It was about the size of one of the closets of the apartment we had been promised).

The movers came, laughed, and delivered. When they left, boxes towered precariously over our heads. The pathway from one end of the apartment to the other involved turning sideways to squeeze through the clutter like some narrow passage in a cave. When my wife and I cleared a space to sit down that night, we were regaled with perfectly audible conversations from overhead between a mother and son.

Somewhere between lying down on our mattress that barely fit in the bedroom and drifting off to sleep to the symphony of booms overhead, I thought of 1 Peter 4:12. Peter wrote to a church under pressure, a church faced with real fiery trials that often threatened the life of its members. He didn't try to lessen the blow for them and, in fact, told them not to be surprised when problems arose.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Compared to first-century Christians, our struggles are fairly tame. No one's threatening us with death for heresy or jail time for disrupting the Roman religious order. Still, in the midst of trials, it's not easy to remember Peter's admonition. But according to him, all the broken promises, much-too-small spaces, and cabinet doors falling off the hinges remind us to rejoice in God always because He knows what He's doing and because our problems mean so little compared to what He's got planned.

Further Reading

1 Peter 1:1
James 1:12