You have noticed, haven’t you, how we all throw pity parties for ourselves when suffering comes? It’s almost as though we capitalize on the downside rather than focus on the benefits that come from the hard times. How easily we forget that growth occurs when life is hard, not when it’s easy.
As the Apostle Peter so masterfully presents in his letter, suffering is not the end; it’s a means to the end. Best of all, God’s end for us is maturity. It is growth. It is a reason for living and going on.
Never one to teeter on the fence of indecision, Peter was impulsive, impetuous and outspoken. He often put his foot in his mouth. He knew the heights of ecstasy on the Mount of Transfiguration and the depths of misery and shame on the night of his denials. And yet, in spite of his flaws and his failures, he is called an apostle of Jesus Christ. What grace!
This is tremendous encouragement for all who fear that their flaws are too numerous or their failures too enormous for them to be given another chance.
Peter wrote “to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). These hurting people, scattered outside their homeland, were lonely and frightened aliens, unsure of their future. But though they were homeless, they were not abandoned; though they were frightened, they were not forgotten. Peter reminds them of that. They were chosen by God and sanctified by His Spirit, and His grace and peace would be with them “in fullest measure.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
The idea of “living hope” occupies Peter’s mind throughout this section of his letter. And how do we claim that living hope? By focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ and by trusting in “the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Living hope requires faith in the living Lord and His Word.
There is nothing tangible on this earth that is inspired but the Word of God, this book that holds God’s counsel. It doesn’t tell us about the truth; it is truth. It doesn’t merely contain words about God; it is the Word of God. We don’t have to try real hard to make it relevant; it is relevant. Don’t neglect it. You can neglect your grass. You can neglect your garden. But you dare not neglect the Word of God! It is the foundation of a stable life. It feeds faith. It’s like fuel in the tank. Don’t wait till Sunday to see what the Scripture teaches.
We have a living hope, and Peter’s words tell us how to claim it—by faith in our Lord Himself and by faith in what He has written in His Word.
As Christians we live in a world that is not our home. We live as pilgrims on a journey in another land. If you want to know how to live the life of an alien, a stranger, a pilgrim, Peter’s letter will help.
Along with everything else he tells and teaches us, I want to mention four lasting lessons, four secrets of life, that stand out in bold relief. All of these give us hope beyond our misery.
First, when our faith is weak, joy strengthens us. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
No matter how dark the clouds, the sun will eventually pierce the darkness and dispel it. Joy will chase away the clouds hovering over our faith and prevail over the disheartening trials that drench our lives.
Second, when our good is mistreated, endurance stabilizes us. “If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God” (1 Peter 2:20).
The word endure in this verse means “to bear up under a load,” as a donkey bears up under the load its owner has stacked high on its back. My hope for everyone who reads these pages is that you will learn how to endure.
Third, when our confidence is shaken, love supports us. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Love is the pillar of support when our world comes crumbling down around us. That’s why, when warning about the end times, Peter puts love on the top of the survival checklist.
Fourth, when our adversary attacks, resistance shields us. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith …” (1 Peter 5:8-9). We’re not instructed to freeze, to hide, or to tuck tail and run. We’re told to resist. And that resistance forms a shield to protect us from our adversary’s predatory claws.
A Prayer for Hope Beyond Misery
Our Father, we thank You for sustaining us in Your grace through times that absolutely defy explanation, times of suffering and misery, times of mistreatment and disappointment. Thank You for strength that has come from a little letter written by an old fisherman who understood life in all its dimensions: failure and disappointment, and victory and joy and intimacy. Help us to find hope again as a result of putting these truths into practice. In the lovely and gracious Name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen. ©1996 Charles R. Swindoll
Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible 1995.
Taken from “Hope Again: When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade” by Charles Swindoll. ©1996 Charles R. Swindoll. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. His “Insight for Living” broadcast airs on more than 2,100 outlets worldwide, and he has written more than 70 books.