Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12
This one of those verses that most of us would rather skip over. But recently I was drawn to look at the meaning of the Greek words closer. Very interesting, and strangely comforting too.
The words translated “surprised” and “something strange” in the above verse are the Greek words xenizo (ξενίζω) and its root xenos (ξένος). Xenos means a foreigner or a stranger (it’s where we get the “xeno” part of the word xenophobia); it also means a guest. Xenizo means to be shocked, “to surprise or astonish by the strangeness and novelty of a thing.” But it also means to receive as a guest, to entertain, to be host, to lodge.
It is like Peter is saying, “do not be shocked by the painful trial you are suffering as though a complete stranger had walked into your house looking for lodging.” I guess he is saying that suffering should not, or will not, be a stranger to us. Suffering was not a stranger to our Lord.
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with (acquainted with, knew) suffering. Isaiah 53:3a
Jesus was intimately acquainted with suffering and, if we are following Him, we share in that acquaintance.
… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. Philippians 3:10
It is comforting for me to know that when this strange house guest, suffering, walks in, Jesus walks in with him.
The word translated “fellowship” above is koinonia. It also means association, community, communion, joint participation. It comes from the noun koinonos which means partner, associate, comrade, companion (how wonderful to be Jesus’ companion!).
But what I love is that the very core root of both of these words is the Greek word for “with,” sun (σύν). It means with or together, companionship, beside. He is with us, beside us, our companion in our suffering. And that makes all the difference. That makes the impossible, possible.
“It is precisely the presence and help of Christ in times of suffering that makes it possible for us to stand up under pressure … The only way to keep putting one foot in front of the other on this dark road is through union with Christ and with the promise of resurrection to light the way.” ― R.C. Sprouli
Jesus has suffered for us, and he will suffer with us. He will never leave us or forsake us.
He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 1 Corinthians 1:8-9
But rejoice that you participate (come into communion or fellowship with, become a sharer, are made a partner) in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13
One foot in front of the other, holding on tight to his hand.
… that I may know Him
i R.C. Sproul, Surprised by Suffering https://www.ligonier.org/blog/suffering-well-union-christ/
Image by Andrés Þór https://flic.kr/p/79jJCz