When suffering for the faith comes their way, Peter informs his readers of the importance of having a proper perspective. They need to remind themselves that they are sharing the sufferings of Christ. Peter here is not referring to the atoning sufferings of Jesus when he was on the cross because believers do not share in them. Instead Peter recognises that there are other kinds of sufferings connected to the cause of Christ.
First, Peter probably has in mind the idea that a period of sufferings would precede the eternal age of glory. Before that latter age would come, those who identify with the Messiah will always face the possibility of suffering for the faith. In contrast to the length of the eternal age of glory, the period of suffering would be short. This aspect is true, even although the church of Christ has known periods of suffering throughout its history. Suffering from this perspective is not only a test of genuineness but is also the guarantee that the persecuted will yet have glory.
Paul refers to this connection in Romans 8:17: ‘and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.’ He also mentions this relationship in 2 Timothy 2:12: ‘if we endure, we will also reign with him.’ The perspective they must maintain is that they will experience now what Jesus would experience if he was here, and that they will yet experience in the eternal world what Jesus will experience there.
Second, they need to have more than a perspective, however. In attrition, they must have a response that will be found in both states (the state of suffering and the state of glory). The common response is rejoicing. We can easily understand why Peter anticipates great joy in the state of glory, but how can he appreciate the presence of joy during persecution and opposition because of following Christ? What aspects of the suffering can bring joy?
Here are some suggestions. First, suffering for Jesus brings identification with Jesus. Second, suffering for Jesus can be a means of joy because of the secret strength he supplies by the Holy Spirit. Third, suffering for Jesus brings joy because it is short in comparison to eternal suffering that will be endured by the lost. Fourth, suffering for Jesus brings joy because it weans believers away from this world and causes them to long for the perfect world that is yet to be.