I used to struggle with fear – irrational, improbable, sometimes paralyzing fear. I would beg God to remove this thorn. I asked repeatedly for Him to release me from this struggle, but He didn’t. One day, while in a mom’s small group, another mom shared how she overcame her fear: she memorized scripture. I found a go-to verse and memorized it. Anytime fear would creep up, I would immediately fight back with this verse:
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. – Isaiah 26:3
Eventually, I overcame those fears, but only because I trained my mind to remain steadfast in trusting God. I practiced making the Word of God my gut reaction to any fear that may threaten to send me spiraling. Musician Ellie Holcomb calls them “Fighting Words.”
This week, Week 1 of our Women’s Ministry Advent Reading, we read 1 Peter 1:1-12, and I believe Peter, the author of the letter, is giving a similar challenge. This book was written around 60-64AD to believers in the Asia Minor province – who were most likely in exile or in danger. This was the time of the reign of Nero, who was best known for his persecution of Christians. The theme of 1 Peter is how to live a godly life – a holy life – while under persecution or suffering.
In John 16:33, Jesus told His disciples that they would have trouble in this world. There was no promise of happy, perfect, worry-free life. Jesus promised the opposite, and Peter was sitting in that room. He was no stranger to suffering. The 30-40 years following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension were tumultuous for the first Christians, but no matter what was happening around them, Peter gave them a reason to rejoice:
Rejoice in Salvation
Peter jumps in with praising God for giving them new birth into a living hope (v 3) and an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade (v4). Then he says this:
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. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:6-9
In this you rejoice. Even if you are grieved by trials. Even if you are going through the fire. Even if you can’t see him. If you believe, you rejoice. The Greek Word used both times for rejoice is a compound word derived from two words: agan meaning much, very and hallomai meaning jump, leap; together: getting so glad one jumps in celebration. Peter is literally telling these suffering believers to jump for joy in God’s salvation, even if we are suffering.
Maybe you find yourself like me though: when confronted with trials, fear, hardship, you feel paralyzed. You know what you are supposed to do, but how do you actually do it?
How can we rejoice when we are paralyzed by our circumstances?
We make it our gut reaction. We practice by rejoicing in the greatest gift God has ever given us: salvation. I am not saying you will always be happy, or you can’t be grieved by your circumstances. But rejoicing has a way of lifting the soul. Rejoicing takes our eyes of ourselves and our circumstances and puts it on the One who saved us.
No matter what happens to us on this earth, no one can take that promise of eternity with Him. No matter what we face, we can rejoice and praise Him for saving us. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. We don’t deserve heaven; we deserve hell. But God in his great mercy (v. 3) gave us Jesus, who gave Himself as the sacrifice that would once and for all cover our sins. He now sits at the right hand of God because the work is done. And that is something to rejoice in.
It’s not too late to join us! Here’s the Conversation Card for Week 2: Rejoice in His Works. Grab a couple girlfriends, meet for coffee, and use this guide to create conversations centered around the Word of God.