1 Peter 4–5: Our Grief & God’s Grace

Read the Bible in 2011–2022* ◊ Week 46: Sunday

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
‘God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.’
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are under­going the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying to you that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.

1 Peter 5:5b–121

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 4–5. In thinking over the mission of the apostles as eyewitnesses to Jesus, I thought of the words Peter wrote as an eyewitness some thirty years later,2 to those who had never seen the Lord Jesus yet loved Him (1 Peter 1:8), and who rejoiced in their salvation “even though,” as Peter wrote, “now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6). In his commentary on 1 Peter, Edmund Clowney translates the phrase, have been distressed as have had to suffer grief.3 I think grief is a much more graphic description of the impact of our trials on us because our trials so many times leave us grieving and suffering pain.

Clowney tells a very moving story about the suffering of some who had never seen Jesus, yet believed in Him:

The Museum of the Desert in the Cevennes mountains of southern France commemorates the sufferings of the Huguenot martyrs. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes is 1685, Protestant public worship became a crime. Men caught at secret worship services in the fields were sent to the galleys. Chained to a rowing bench, they slaved at the oars until they died. A replica of one of the great galley oars hangs in the museum today. Underneath is a model of a galley. Beside it are inscribed the words of a Reformed Christian galley slave: ‘My chains are the chains of Christ’s love.’

“Peter reflects on the love that his readers have for Christ, love that makes them ready to suffer so that their proven love can be his tribute. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Peter, of course, has seen the Lord. His love for Jesus could bring pictures to mind…Through the witness of Peter and the other apostles we learn about what Jesus said and did. They bear witness through the Holy Spirit, and by the witness of the Spirit we are brought to know and love the living Lord.

“We did not see Jesus; we do not now see Jesus; but we shall see Jesus. Peter contrasts the past and the present with the future (1:8). The day is coming when Jesus will be revealed. In that day the goal of our faith will be realized. Our eyes will behold the One we have trusted and loved.”4

I want to tell you another story. During my life I have suffered the loss of my hearing, lengthy illnesses, the death of my brother to AIDS, as well as afflictions of varying intensity because of my Christian beliefs (although nothing like the Huguenots!). In 2011 the shock of almost three years of blows was piled on top of these events of prior years, and that impact combined with the severity of feeling loss and abandonment made my grieving like a hemorrhaging wound. I had never gone through such storms of doubt as a Christian, and I had never gone through any affliction with so little comfort. When something like that happens, you keep going, you persevere—but the grieving is real because the loss is real.

On the last Saturday in July 2011, as I was praying, I told God my grief was a wound that kept hemorrhaging and would not stop; I could not end it, and I asked Him to stop the bleeding. I knew I would be going through the last two chapters in Luke for my daily Bible reading, and because I’d read them before I generally knew what they contained, but I didn’t know how they could help me. As I read, however, I thought of 1 Peter, and then because I’d been helped by Clowney in the past, I turned back to his commentary. I read the story of the Huguenots and I read his translation: “have had to suffer grief.” Grief, the same word I had used.

I was stunned. God knew the circum­stances of my life, and that on that Saturday I would read Luke 23–24 and remember Peter’s letter. God heard my prayer of my grief, and He then gave me the very translation of Peter’s words that used the very same word, grief. God used His Word through Clowney’s translation to comfort me and reassure me that He knew and understood my grief.

So the Holy Spirit consoled my heart and strengthened me in the midst of that awful time to trust God. Not that I haven’t shed tears and known loss and felt abandonment since then, but that last Saturday in July 2011 marked a day of setting up my own “Stone of Help.”

In our distress over our various trials, those of us who have never seen the Lord Jesus need the comfort and assurance that Peter, an eyewitness, provides. There’s a reason why God had Peter, the disciple who denied Christ rather than endure mockery, be the eyewitness who wrote a letter on enduring suffering! Who else would better understand how hard it is? Who else would know we would need to hear again his witness that this is the true grace of God? Who else would know we would need to be encouraged to stand fast?  God’s ministry to me that day was an Ebenezer which I could set up and know, Thus far the LORD has helped me.

Clowney writes:

“He [Peter] speaks with deep understanding and feeling out of his own knowledge as an apostle of Christ.5

“Some may scorn the comfort and triumph of Peter’s letter as unpractical theology. His answers are answers of faith. But Peter knows that his witness is true, that Jesus Christ is real. He has tasted that the Lord is good, and that his goodness will not fail. ‘This is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it’ (5:12).”6

Incomprehensible pain can be overwhelming. We need to read and know the words of those eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ to give us courage and endurance. God gave us His Word because He loves us, and He knows we need to read what those eyewitnesses tell us about the reality of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we suffer and struggle to trust Him.

In the midst of our trials, in our grief, we need the words of an eye­witness to tell us, yes, Jesus is real; yes, this is the true grace of God; yes, stand fast in it. The faith of those of us who have never seen Christ, but who love Him reaches back to those first eyewitnesses who saw Him, loved Him and who yet witness to us about Him.

I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.

1 Peter 5:127

‘My chains are the chains of Christ’s love.’

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted).
Croix huguenote au Musée protestant de la grange de Wassy (Haute-Marne): Ji-Elle. GFDL-1.2-or-later, (CC BY-SA 3.0), (CC BY-SA 2.5), (CC BY-SA 2.0), (CC BY-SA 1.0). Cropped.
1,2,3,4,5,6,7Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter(InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1988) translation of 1 Peter 5:5b–12: 208, 210, 212–213, 217, 221, 222; Clowney dates 1 Peter as having been written in AD 63. 23; 51; 53–54; 22; 25; translation of 1 Peter 5:12: 222.

The National Huguenot Society has this explanation of the symbolism of the Huguenot Cross:

“The insignia consists of an open four-petal Lily of France — reminiscent of the Mother Country of France — in which each petal radiates outward in the shape of a “V” to form a Maltese Cross. The four petals signify the Four Gospels. Each petal, or arm, has at its outside periphery two rounded points at the corners. These rounded points are regarded as signifying the Eight Beatitudes.

“The four petals are joined together by four fleur-de-lis, also reminiscent of the Mother Country of France. Each fleur-de-lis has has three petals. The twelve petals of the four fleur-de-lis signify the Twelve Apostles.

“An open space in the shape of heart is formed between each fleur-de-lis and the arms of the two petals with which it is joined. This shape—a symbol of loyalty—suggests the seal of the great French Reformer, John Calvin.

“A descending dove pendant representing the Saint Esprit or “Sainted Spirit” — the guide and counselor of the Church — is suspended from a ring of gold attached to the lower central petal.”

This post has been revised from one first written on the last two chapters of Luke, Luke 23–24: Eyewitnesses & Faith. I later edited that post and republished it as, ‘…the chains of Christ’s love’, and the later post is also found in the heading under Anchor of Hope.

*In 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” You can find the other posts in the navigation menu in the header. If a day doesn’t have a link to a post, the post was simply a brief reminder about the reading. I’m filling in some of those gaps with new posts with “Read the Bible in 2011 Redux” as a category.

Copyright ©2011–2022 Iwana Carpenter

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