Peter ends this letter to a group of suffering Christians with great consolation. Line after line offers hope and promise of comfort and reward. An altered frame of mind maybe helps us with our expectations and desires but today’s comfort brings solace to the heart.
1. Peter begins by reminding his recipients that their reward for standing up under pressure is an eternally durable one.
And when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that won’t wither away. (5:4)
The toned, flexible, capable bodies of our youth age and wither. Crowd approval fades. Financial stability and market shares lessen with time. But there is a glorious reward coming to those who stay true to the faith even in the face of persecution that cannot be taken away and will not lessen in value.
2. Suffering is also easier to face when we are convinced that God is one on our side.
Throw all your care upon him, because he cares about you. (5:7)
It can be easy to give into the belief that God is not on our side, that He has had a hand in our suffering or at least has failed to stop it. Peter reminds his readers that God cares intimately about them and their problems. They can fall to their knees and pour out their prayers to him. No matter the emotion — fear, resentment, anger, hurt — God wants to hear their heart’s cry.
3. No one wishes misfortune on others, but suffering is easier to face when you know you are not alone.
Resist him [the Devil], staying resolute in your faith, and knowing that other family members in the rest of the world are facing identical sufferings. (5:9)
Persecution is the worst when you think you are the only one being subject to it. You begin to think there is something particularly wrong with you. Or the injustice of the situation seems all the worse. Peter reminds them that what they are going through is not unique. There are many others suffering the same fate. Strangely, there is comfort in numbers.
4. Paul’s last word of all about suffering in this letter is that better days are coming.
Then, after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you in the Messiah Jesus to the glory of his new age, will himself put you in good order, and will establish and strengthen you and set you on firm foundations. (5:10)
When you are in the midst of hard times it is so easy to become myopic and think this is all that life is. Every day will be filled with pain. Each new person will treat you as harshly as the others. Every phone call will be bad news. Each new turn is a bad turn. Peter reminds them (and us) that God gets the last word, and for those who in Christ, that last word is one of blessing, strength and restoration.