There are a lot of ways to suffer in life:
You can hit your thumb with a hammer.
You can have a stroke or heart attack or get cancer.
You can fall off a horse, get into a car accident, or break a leg falling out of a tree.
You can suffer the ravages of war, famine, and plague.
You can writhe in the shame of remembered guilt.
You can feel the deep hurt of what someone said or did to you.
You can lose your health, wealth, family, and reputation like Job.
Some of our suffering comes from the corrupted creation that we live in. Things break. Diseases happen. Tornados spin up and touch down.
Some of our suffering comes from other people—who are sinners—who do things, intentionally or not, to hurt us.
Some of our suffering comes from the choices that we make ourselves—angry words, vengeful actions, or simply sticking our foot in our mouths. Our tongue is often a source of our suffering—if we could just not say dumb things…
The suffering that Peter refers to in this passage, however, is the suffering that can happen because you are a Christian. Jesus warned us that identifying with him could cause others around you to hate you. “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
Some Christians, especially Christians in western nations like the United States, are unfamiliar with this sort of suffering. Christianity has been a part of our culture and, as long as you weren’t “going overboard on the religion stuff,” you hardly even got teased.
But that is changing in our country. Being Christian isn’t necessarily safe anymore. Christian companies like Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby have experienced legal pressure and worse. Christian bakers and photographers and florists have been taken to court because they refuse to act against their conscience.
Some Christians are stunned at this turn around in our country. But Peter has an important reminder for us in verse 12. He says, “think it not strange concerning the fiery trial…as though some strange thing happened unto you.”