It’s been nearly a year since my wife and I experienced the heartbreaking loss of an unborn child. I don’t pretend to know why it happened—only that it did.
A person in pain will do nearly anything for relief. I thought my spiritual understanding and the educational pedigree I was working on would be a source for answers—the relief I needed—but it wasn’t. At the time, I believed that sound biblical interpretation could explain nearly anything—even the death of an innocent child. I was wrong.
Although reading and studying the Bible didn’t bring relief from the pain, Bible study slowly re-introduced my wife and I to the suffering of our savior. Through loving our unborn child, we learned what it is like to love someone you have never seen—just like Christ loved us when He died for us. Through our suffering, we learned what it means to place our hope in things to come.
Christ’s love, how to handle suffering, and placing hope in things to come is the subject of 1 Peter.
The audience of Peter’s first letter desperately needed a pick-me-up. They were men and women in grief. They were experiencing life-shattering trials from persecution. Peter exhorts them to remember that their faith and hope were found in someone they had never even met:
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. (1 Pet 1:8 NRSV)
What the apostle says is both wise and strategic. Although he may have a general sense of what his readers are experiencing collectively, he can’t possibly know the intimate details of each person’s trials, struggles and hardships. Instead of addressing each individual’s problems, he provides a foundation for all believers—regardless of circumstance. His message is simple: “Our shared belief in the suffering of Christ can uniformly provide all that is necessary for each of you to move forward in faith. So don’t give up.”
Christ is our model, as 1 Pet 2:21 states:
For … you have been called [to suffering], because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.… When he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.… by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls. (1 Pet 2:21–25 NRSV)
Through the healing process, we also learned something that Peter hints at throughout his letter: Our Guardian uses brokenness to build relational bridges that would never have been created otherwise.
Within days of making the news of our loss public, my wife and I were inundated with emails, phone calls and text messages that can be summed up in two words: “Me too.” Some of our closest friends had even experienced a similar loss, but had never told us. The obvious and heartbreaking difference was that they, along with many others, suffered in silence.
We just wanted to move on, but apparently “moving on” can also mean serving others. Christ, our model, was asking us to live for Him by helping others, even when we felt like we had nothing to give. As Peter says,
Since … Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention … so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. (1 Pet 4:1–2 NRSV)
Peter was right. Walking while wounded isn’t supposed to be easy, but Christ shows us how to suffer well and how to suffer with others. Rather than hide our wounds, we wear them publicly, declaring them to be of immense value. The God who suffered for all of us is ready and willing to walk with us in the darkest of times.