Often the moments of life we feel most helpful are when sitting with friends or family who are suffering.
What’s the first thing you say to someone in your life who’s experiencing significant grief or has received tragic news? How do you talk to a loved one feeling wounded or fragile or threatened? Where do you start?
Peter wrote to friends facing intense suffering and opposition (1 Peter 1:6; 2:18–19; 3:8–9). They were hurting, and more pain was apparently on the way. So how did Peter start his letter?
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, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3–5)
Peter doesn’t begin with compassionate sympathy or sorrow, but with a bold cry of victory and a song of worship. He minimizes the pain, it seems, by raising the eyes of his readers above and beyond their suffering to God and his plan to rescue and satisfy them forever.
To twenty-first-century consciences, that might seem insensitive. Our counseling and sensitivity conditioning say we should be quiet, somber, and apologetic in this situation. Peter presents a different approach. In fact, his next words are, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). Peter takes the potential of lifelong pain — perhaps violent, even fatal — and persecution, and makes it sound like just a bad day, maybe a week — “a little while.”