“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials …” (1 Peter 1:6).
How do you like the way the apostle Peter talks about the entirety of your life as “a little while”? In the preceding verses he just discussed what heaven would be like—a blessed reality of unfading intensity that will not diminish over time, or fade away, or go bad on you (been there, done that). And in contrast to that halcyon future existence we will have someday with the Lord, Peter calls your present existence “a little while.”
“A little while” is what your mother used to say when a car trip seemed interminable and you kept asking if you were there yet. “A little while” is how long you let the caulking dry before you slap on paint. But is your lifetime “a little while”? Yes, it is, according to Peter, though you thought it was feeling quite long. Peter has noticed some things about life and friends and family and occupations and seasons:
“All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).
Do you need proof? Where is Peter now? Long buried. Where is Paul? Gone, too. Where are Jonathan Edwards, and George Müller, and David Brainerd, and every person named in the “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews 11? The wind blows soulfully over the place where they lie.
“Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?” (Zechariah 1:5).
The question answers itself.
Returning to the opening verse, we see that what will fill this “little while” of our sojourn is “various trials.” God will allow these into our lives “if necessary.” What an intriguing adverbial phrase! Is a lot of trial more necessary for some of us than others? I have a friend named Barbara who often remarks that God deals gently with her, and I can see that it is true. On the other hand, my husband’s life has been filled with “various trials”—and God loves both David and Barbara. For whatever reason, God deems that more severe trials are “necessary” for the one and not the other, in His single-minded purpose for their perfection.
The point is that all these trials—which Peter and James insist we should rejoice in because they are to exercise our faith—are only “for a little while.” And like the child buckled into the car seat behind his mother on the way to the zoo, we also can put up with just about anything if we know the time is short.