“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself . . . strengthen [you].” — 1 Peter 5:10
To suffer, with Christ, is a vastly superior life to never suffering without him.
And if he has saved you through his death, manifesting all his divine power in his own human weakness unto death, do you not think he can be your power in your suffering?
He will be your strength in the eternal life he gives you. Eternal life means just that—“eternal.” This means however much you suffer, even if it be all of your life, and even if your life is long, it will still be nothing but a blip on the radar of eternity. “After you have suffered a little while,” says Peter. It is the context of eternity, which is the length of our union with Christ and therefore the un-expiring duration of our security, which colors our suffering. So that Paul could refer to his missional life of suffering, “a light momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17). It’s not even worth comparing to the eternal weight of glory.
It is the sustaining vision of eternal life in Christ that fixes even a lifetime of suffering to a fine point — a fine point that in the last day will be eclipsed by the glory of the radiant Christ, perhaps even distilled down to a jewel placed amidst your treasures, or placed in the crown of Christ himself as we offer our suffering up to him, finally in our fully sanctified state, truly not loving our own lives even unto death.
But the apostle here is not simply promising the escape of suffering –- he is promising the sustenance through it.
He will be your strength in the midst of your suffering, with sustaining grace to persevere. He is there, with you and around you and beneath you and over you and in you and beside you, and you are in him, and there is no furnace so hot that Christ will not walk into it with you.
I’m reminded of the passage in The Hiding Place, as Corrie ten Boom, with her father, contemplates the prospect of torture and death ahead of her:
I burst into tears, “I need you!” I sobbed. “You can’t die! You can’t!”
“Corrie,” he began gently. “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”
When you must go through the furnace, you will not be alone.
In the weakness of suffering, Christ will be your strength.