What’s a Christian supposed to do with a passage of Scripture like 1 Peter 4:12-13? I mean, I believe it’s the inspired Word of God and everything. But it just doesn’t feel very realistic.
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad — for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.1 Peter 4:12-13
My Life Group was talking about this last night, and we were trying to figure out how to be “very glad” at “fiery trials.” On the one hand, I guess there could be some reassurance that trials will come. The life of faith will always be a struggle. Trials don’t mean that I’m doing it wrong (in fact, it may be exactly the opposite). On the other hand, it’s scary and discouraging to be reminded that trials will come. No matter how much we try to (A) Control our environment or (B) Release it to God’s control, the outcome will always hold fast that (C) Suffering will continue.
As we were talking, my mind flashed back to a hike I did on Tuesday. It included a part of the Wetmore Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. At this time of the year, the Wetmore Trail is even more wet than usual. In fact, it’s a gloppy, gooey, uushy-gushy muddy mess. I didn’t want to let the trail conditions get the best of me — especially with a lovely hint of spring in the air — but I also didn’t want to get my boots and pants dirty.
So I started my hike with carefully trying to side-step the uush, as much as possible. This strategy was ill-fated from the beginning, of course, but I probably kept the mud to the bottom inch of my boots for the first twenty or thirty minutes. It was fine.
But it wasn’t great.
I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the sounds of the birds in the trees. My eyes were so focused on the ground that my view was obscured from the bright green moss and buds forming on the understory of the forest. I didn’t let myself deeply breathe the smell of rain from earlier in the morning. All because I was thinking about the mud creeping up the sides of my boots, splattering on the backs of my pant legs.
At some point I realized that I needed to “Embrace the Uush.” My boots were up to the challenge. My pants would clean up just fine in the washing machine. The only thing from the morning that might be permanently lost would be the hours that I spent on the trail — given over to extreme caution and complaint. I needed to just step confidently into the mud and deal with the consequences later.
In the end, the most helpful thing ended up being a really deep mud puddle in a marshy area of the trail. I was starting to loosen up and let myself go a bit. But at this particular puddle, I decided to be careful again. I stepped onto a dead tree limb that was partially submerged off to my right. And as soon as I put my weight onto my right foot, the bottom of the boot skidded across the smooth, wet surface of the limb. My leg started to slip out from under me. So I flailed and twisted, mid-air, bringing my left leg around to regain equilibrium. But when the left leg came down — it was directly into the deepest part of the mud puddle. It landed with a loud splat. My hands found places to steady myself, so I didn’t end up falling all the way to the ground. But I was pretty muddy and wet afterwards.
And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.
After that slip in the marsh, the rest of my hike became much more pleasant. My shoulders and neck relaxed, so I could look around and enjoy the scenery. I breathed deeply and found fellowship with God. Believe it or not: I even came to enjoy the feel of the uushy-gushy mud under my boots.
So maybe that’s what Peter was talking about. A similar process of walking by faith, taking the bad with the good — and realizing that it’s really not that bad, even if it feels gross and unpleasant in the moment. Trials will come. They’re just a part of the human experience. There’s nothing to be done about suffering. Our only real option is to give up all hope, or to continue to walk by faith.
So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.1 Peter 4:19
I want to look for opportunities to “Embrace the Uush” in everyday life. They’re all around. I just need to look for them and step into them with confidence.