Looking Beyond Our Pain

I have been repeatedly awe-struck reflecting on the powerful, deep, life-altering, hopeful words from the New Testament letter 1 Peter in my own personal study times lately. Martin Luther is reported to have said of this book that it contained everything necessary for a Christian to know.

On Sunday a wonderful member of my church died unexpectedly. He was a devoted father and husband. He was a fixture of our weekend volunteer team. He was also the husband of one of my staff members. The news has been crushing in many ways. And yet, as a believer in Jesus, we mourn through a brilliant, good-news focused, lens of hope.

Hope is one of the great themes of the 1 Peter. The life, death, resurrection, and ascension (return to heaven) of Jesus are the historical, earth-shattering truths upon which our hope is built. The journey of Jesus through death, then defeating death, and now reigning as Lord from Heaven gives Christians hope in following in his path. We may suffer and die but death is not the end. Our Savior has power over death and we have a promise that what we only experience in part in this life (his presence), we will experience fully in eternity.

Today I reflected upon these great words from 1 Peter chapter 2:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
(1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)

The four-fold declaration of verse four pulls from the long-running promise and description of God’s chosen people from the Old Testament. Israel, going all the way back to their freedom from Egypt under Moses leadership, and over a millennium before Jesus, was repeatedly referred to as:

  • a chosen people
  • a royal priesthood
  • holy (think set-apart)
  • God’s special possession

God intervened in a dark world by calling a nation to be his own light to all peoples. In Peter’s letter, as throughout the New Testament, the church is labeled with these great descriptors.

Jesus’ followers are called to be a light unto the world.  

An important part of how we do that is that we proclaim God’s “excellencies” to others. We’ve been saved from sin! We have new life in Jesus! We have been transferred out of darkness and into his marvelous light. I have my own personal darkness that God has saved me from. I can put on a “good” exterior, but I know the sinful selfishness that lurks within. It is only Jesus that has brought me out of this darkness and helps me to get back out when I’m walking the wrong way again.

Darkness in the Bible often implies ignorance too. As humans, we don’t know God. Or we reject what we know of God. It is only by God’s grace that we can know him. It is entirely grace-full that he reveals himself to us through the Bible. And it is entirely grace-full that we can appreciate and receive the good news of Jesus we find in the Bible. This is a great mercy.

Now, what has this to do with the unexplainable and painful loss of a loved one? Namely this:

We can’t judge God by the middle of his plan, only by the end.

Now, the middle is pretty incredible in many ways! To be forgiven of my sin and to enter into a real relationship with God through Jesus is an awesome gift! We should be proclaiming this excellent, saving gift like crazy! And yet, the middle can often be filled with trials and pain.

Our hope as Christians looks to the end. In the end, we are called finally and perfectly into God’s marvelous light. Light in the Bible often implies God’s presence and our salvation. We hope, looking away from the pain of the middle, to the glory of the end!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…
(1 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)

Enjoy your inheritance, Jay. We mourn your absence but know you are in Jesus’ presence. We’ll see you soon brother!

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