Have you ever considered yourself a wayfaring stranger? For social beings, that can be tough as it is a deep human need to have a place to belong. It doesn’t mean that we won’t have a place or family here on earth but in general, we likely won’t feel at home in the secular world. Peter opens his letter addressing the Jewish exiles, explaining to them that they are elect exiles. He tells them that they have actually been chosen to experience going through life feeling displaced from their home. As Christians we, too, are just wayfaring strangers on our way to our home in heaven. This is all part of God’s plan. We won’t fit into the world around us. We won’t be comfortable. If I’m completely honest, I don’t want to get too comfortable here! I have my eyes set on the place where I am going- heaven. As the old familiar hymn goes:
I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There is no sickness, no toil, nor danger
In that bright land to which I go…
(origin story, full lyrics, and video here…)
Living as wayfaring strangers, or exiles, brings about a certain amount of discomfort, though. Our “strange ways” as believers can make others treat us badly. We can feel disconnected and alone. Truly the devil wants nothing more than to get us to focus on those human feelings. Yet Peter reminds us to keep our focus on the Lord. He encourages us to keep a heavenly perspective rather than getting distracted by human thoughts. Whenever I face something difficult, it is SO easy to slip into thoughts of “why me” and “when will this end” and “how can I get this to stop.” That is the exact human response- to focus inward. However, as believers, we need to refocus our minds heavenward where our real citizenship is held. Peter tells us that we can expect to be grieved by various trials but reminds us that they can be a source of joy for the Christian.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7
We must remember that God has a holy purpose for the trials and sufferings that come our way. They are a refining fire that strengthens and deepens our faith. Peter gives us the analogy of gold being purified by fire. Just as intense heat purifies gold so our trials will make our faith more genuine.
We can most certainly be grieved by our trials and feel them as humans but we can also be encouraged by knowing that they truly serve a holy purpose. They have been sent or allowed by a sovereign God. God created the emotions that are within us and it is normal and even beneficial to feel and acknowledge those emotions for a time. But Peter actually encourages us not to get stuck there but to rejoice over our trials even if we are grieving because our faith is being refined.
I personally have come to find the trials that come my way comforting because I see it as an assurance of my salvation. Trials mean that I am a child of God because He is working in me to mature me as He tests and refines the genuineness of my faith. That is the application we can take away from this passage. That’s where the joy comes into play.
As we move further into this global trial of the Coronavirus, I pray that it is bringing you closer to the Lord. Draw near to the Lord and allow him to move and work in your life. Replace your fears and anxiety with the awareness that He is drawing you to himself, purifying your faith, and that your faith will result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus returns.
This is part of a series called Holy Purpose, a teaching series from 1 & 2 Peter. You can find all the posts in the series here.
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