Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Pet. 4:13)

AMERICAN PASTOR SAEED ABEDINI has languished in an Iranian prison for more than three years, separated from his wife and two young children. He was taken into custody by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in 2012 while working in an orphanage in the name of Christ. He was convicted of undermining Iran’s national security by gathering Christians in private homes. Pastor Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Despite multiple pleas for his release, even from the highest government officials in the United States, the pastor remains incarcerated and faces daily threats from the other prisoners and guards. “My children continue to ask when Daddy is coming home,” Pastor Abedini’s wife laments. “I no longer know what to tell them. While our faith keeps us going and continues to give us strength, we need Saeed to be returned to our family. We miss him terribly. His immediate return is the only thing that can mend our broken hearts.”

Nothing is more difficult to bear than suffering that seems to have no purpose. This dilemma need never be an issue for the persecuted Christian. The basis of our joy in Christ never comes in the trials themselves, but in the certain hope that all of our suffering will turn to joy when the Lord returns.

When persecution is on the rise, we can find peace in the assurance of God’s sovereignty.

Look for God’s purpose in the trials you now face.

Doug Schmidt is a freelance writer and editor, and serves on the staff of his church as the director of small groups.