Shadows & the hope that hides in them during times of suffering.
As Christians we know that God cares deeply about our pain and suffering and its impact on us here on earth (Genesis 3:16; John 11:35). He also knows that our life on this earth isn’t the end of it all, but rather just the beginning (1 Corinthians 15:26). In order to keep that hope alive in our hearts during times of hardship, Peter encourages us in his first epistle with the words, “We have Living Hope.”
Who was Peter?
Peter is a man that knows suffering and persecution. He is living thousands of miles away from his family, where he was raised and walked with Jesus. He is living there because Nero is trying to kill all the Christians. Peter has endured because of this. He knows people that have been killed for their faith and has seen horrible things done to others. When he talks to us about suffering, he gets it. He understands what we are going through better than anyone else could. In this passage, he is speaking to those who are new followers of Christ, and who are feeling discouraged by suffering. He does not tell them, “Don't worry, your faith will get you through.” Instead, he says, “This too shall pass” (1 Peter 5:10). That doesn’t mean we just put up with it, but instead allow it to reveal God's love for us and our hope in Him.
What does The Bible say about suffering?
Peter says to submit to, show respect for, and fear God and honor the emperor (1 Peter 2:13-17). He also encourages us to endure for Jesus' sake because we are looking forward to sharing His glory when He comes again at the end of time. The purpose of pain is to reveal God, who is our hope in the suffering, our strength, endurance, and love (2 Corinthians 4:8-11). Our story is somebody's hope. Be a light so that others may know God (Philippians 2:14).
Is there a purpose for the pain?
The purpose of pain is to give opportunity to declare the praises of God! The end result may not be what we want, but it will always point to Him. This was the hope that the Apostle Peter encouraged his readers with when he wrote, “The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” Suffering isn’t because God just wants you to suffer; His purposes are greater than our pain.
If we are willing to endure for Jesus' sake and follow His instruction as found in 1 Peter 4:12, not being surprised at the fiery ordeal that comes upon us to test us as though something strange is happening, then there is hope in the midst of our suffering. What does this hope mean? It means that we can continue on even when everything around us falls apart. There is hope in the midst of our suffering! That light shines through the darkness to reveal who God really is and shows others how much He loves them. So be a light so that others may know Him too!
The hope we have in Christ
How can we endure pain with hope? The Bible encourages us to endure for Jesus' sake, for our Lord's glory and reward (1 Peter 4:13). The purpose of pain is to reveal God's character, His kingdom, and His love (2 Corinthians 4:16). The hope we have in and through Christ, even and especially that gained through pain and trial, will never spoil or fade. Our inheritance cannot be stolen or destroyed by the enemy because it is imperishable; it lives on forever! We have this hope as an anchor for our souls. When we hope in Jesus, who suffered like no other man before Him, we are freed from fear of death and destruction. To find hope in all circumstances is what the Apostle Peter advises us to do when we suffer. He reminds us that the steadfastness with which he endured his suffering caused many people to turn from their sinfulness and embrace Christ. Be a light so that others may know God!
Find family during those times
What is the Christian perspective on suffering? There are many answers to this question, but it's important to remember that we do not suffer alone. Jesus went through much pain, even at the end of His life; there is comfort in knowing He endured for our sake, so we can endure for His. Peter speaks of hope in our tribulations: “Your God knows your frame; he remembers you as a holy people; he favors you with his love” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus offers hope because He has experienced suffering himself, more so than some of us can even imagine, and yet He emerged victorious! As Christians, we are encouraged to stand with our family of believers throughout their trials, enduring for His sake if need be so they can endure for ours. It is not easy, but we have hope that can help us persevere: “You should turn from evil ways and live righteously and justly. For then the Lord will be with you when you go out or when you come in” (3 John 1:11). The Bible also assures us of a hope which never disappoints or falls short- the hope of eternal life to which all those who believe are destined (Romans 8:24). Whether someone chooses to take up the cross now, or later down the road, we know what awaits him. Jesus told His followers Himself: “Fear not...for I am with you always” (Matthew 28:10). When faced with difficult circumstances, it is comforting to know that someone has been there before and seen success. It can be tough to see the light of hope shining through at first- but don't give up! If anything, this situation might make us stronger in faith. Some may feel broken and more lost than ever before. But if we lean into the One who carried this cross for us, and follow in His footsteps, together we will be able to endure whatever hardships come our way. With each new sunrise comes another chance to start fresh, a chance to keep fighting and hold fast in hope (Hebrews 12:3). Together with Peter, let’s encourage one another to stand strong through these challenging times of persecution and hardships until Christ returns. “Be joyful no matter what happens; pray constantly without giving up; praise God so that you'll have energy for everything good you do” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Stand firm in hope, let your spirit grow bolder every day. Let this be a reminder to all of us: your story is somebody else’s hope.