Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.
When C.S. Lewis married for the first time late in life, it was quite a surprise to him and his readers who knew the Oxford don as a middle-aged bachelor. After Joy Davidman died he wrote a book about his marriage, and called it, "Surprised by Joy."
I meet a lot of people, and I count myself among them, surprised by suffering. I thought that was the old days, something you read about in world literature and history books. We're supposed to have better technologies today; our medical arts are so greatly improved. And, besides all that, I have been blessed with privilege; I am not subject like others to pain, suffering, grief, disappointment, betrayal or futility.
And then I pick up Saint Peter's quiet suggestion,
"Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you."This misery is not strange; it is not unusual or unexpected. And there is no reason it should not happen to you or me. In the case of Saint Peter's letter, the trial by fire was due to their faith as Christians; but suffering comes to everyone in one way or another.
The Christian knows that misery is an invitation to communion with Jesus. This is evident in all of the Letters of Saint Paul, and throughout the Gospels. Some biblical proverbs promise reward to the faithful and they are not wrong, but they might distract us if we read them as promises of "Christian exceptionalism."
Beyond all the things we should do about our suffering and that of others -- medical attention, compassionate care for others, reorienting one's goals, etc -- we can offer our "trials" as prayers. Intractable pain offers an intense form of communion with the Crucified and the suffering of others.
But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ,Even to tell others about your pain is to invite comparisons with theirs. I learned that at a KC meeting when I complained of my sciatica. Everyone in the room knew exactly how I felt. I was disappointed for a moment, that my pain wasn't all that special. And then I was grateful for the sympathy. We're in this together. And I can live with it as my brother Knights do.
Today we celebrate the martyr Justin. Well-born, well-educated, he might have easily maintained a comfortable life among the intelligentsia and avoided his martyrdom had he not chosen to invite others of his class and education to follow the Lord. As each of us take up our allotted crosses we will, very likely, be surprised by Joy.