Summary: The conquest of Christ in the face of suffering encourages us in the face of our suffering.
In nineteenth century Scotland there lived a man with an amazing amount of promise and potential. Everyone around him readily agreed the young man was destined for greatness. Everything seemed to be going well for him and the sky seemed to be the limit for this promising young man gifted for greatness. While engaged to be married, he was suddenly hospitalized. It was discovered this young man full of promise and potential was suffering from a degenerative eye disease which would eventually leave him blind. Consequently his fiancée broke their engagement and in so doing broke the young man’s heart. His world seemed shattered. His storm was not the result of poor life choices or past indiscretions. There was no explanation for the howling winds and the torrential rains that bombarded the shore of his soul. Yet within a period of five minutes, George Matheson, blind and broken, chose to lift His heart above the storm to the One who rules and reigns above the storms. The comfort he found in the arms of the loving Father led him to pen these words of comfort and hope:
O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.
“I trace the rainbow through the rain.” From the depths of despair, George Matheson traced the rainbow of God’s grace through the rain of personal pain.
All of us experience storms in life. Some of those storms we understand. When we suffer pain because of poor personal choices we at least know the wounds are self-inflicted. We brought the suffering on ourselves. But what do we do when we suffer for doing what is right? We do the right things for the right reasons and as a result of our seeking to honor God we get hammered. The winds blow, the rains fall, and everything in our lives that is not nailed down seems to fly away.
The first epistle of Peter was written to men and women trying desperately to trace the rainbow of God’s grace through the rain of their personal adversity. These believers were not suffering from poor choices or past indiscretions; they were suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. The rain was falling, the winds were howling, and these precious saints of God needed to know how to trace the rainbow through the rain. Where could they find hope in the midst of suffering? Peter reminds them, and he reminds us, hope is found in the One who suffered for us. Twelve times in this epistle Peter refers to the suffering of Christ. You and I can find hope in the face of suffering by keeping our eyes focused on the One who suffered for us. The conquest of Christ in the face of suffering encourages us in the face of our suffering.
I encourage you to open God’s Word to the third chapter of First Peter as we seek to find encouragement in the face of suffering. How can you trace the rainbow through the inevitable rain of life? We find hope in the midst of suffering by looking to the One who suffered for us. The conquest of Christ’s suffering encourages us in our suffering.
Read First Peter 3:18-22
The apostle Peter was writing to believers who were experiencing tremendous suffering as a result of their personal faith in Jesus Christ. Some of these believers could not find work because of their faith. Jewish merchants refused to hire them because they were considered traitors to Judaism. Greek merchants refused to hire them for fear that loyal customers might boycott their business thinking they were sympathizers of ‘The Way’, this new religious uprising that offended both historic Judaism and pagan polytheism. If they could not work, they could not buy food. If they could not buy food, they could not feed their families.
Can you imagine holding your infant child in your arms as they cry from hunger pangs? Can you imagine watching that poor child slowly wither away in your arms as they suffer from malnutrition? Can you imagine clutching that child to your womb as they breathe their last breath? Can you imagine all of this pain and suffering being the result of your belief that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life? This was the scenario for many of these believers in Asia Minor.
This letter was written in or around 64AD. The reigning Emperor, Nero, had made it his personal mission to exterminate Christianity from the face of the earth. Many believers were snatched off the street and hauled to the Colosseum where they would become appetizers for the lions in order to appease the sadistic pleasures of the audience. Perhaps one of Nero’s most heinous forms of torture was to roll believers in wax, impale them on stakes, and use them to light his rose garden at night. This was the kind of suffering these believers were enduring. They needed help and they needed hope. Where could they find hope in the face of such overwhelming pain? Hope was found in the One who suffered for them.