The early followers of Jesus knew about hard times. They knew about fear and uncertainty, hunger and want. They knew what it was like to be isolated from friends and family and neighbors – whether because of their message, or because they were in prison or because they were far from home. They also knew what it’s like to wonder what new trouble or trial the next day may bring.
And yet, while the letters they left behind acknowledge their suffering, they highlight a hope that far outweighed their struggles. “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the apostle Peter wrote (I Peter 1:3-6 NLT). “It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond reach of change and decay.” And sickness. And sorrow. And death.
“Through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive his salvation… So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”
We too can live in the middle of trials with great expectation – or living hope, as some translations say. Why? Because of Easter, which many of us just celebrated last week at home, reading Scriptures and singing songs around our dining room tables or streaming over the Internet. Not the Easter of chocolate and bunnies. But the Easter of the resurrection – the promise that after suffering and death comes eternal life for all who turn away from their sins and put their trust in Jesus.
Because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin and overcame death, we can overcome death too. Eternal life is our inheritance. Protection is God’s promise. Joy is our reward. And we can experience a measure of that joy now, knowing that our sufferings are temporary.
This is the hope I cling to when I read the ever-rising numbers of people infected by Covid-19. It is the hope I hold when I pray for those in refugee camps and homeless shelters and assisted living facilities. It is the hope I embrace for my family. For Christians, as the apologist Ravi Zacharias has said, death is not a period, but a comma – not the end of a sentence, but a transition before a new beginning.
And so, Peter writes, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (I Peter 5:7 NLT). How do we do this? By actively seeking God’s will in our lives and welcoming his presence. No mere calming meditation or mindfulness trick, this is about calling on the One who made all creation and releasing the burdens of our worried lives into his care.
It is about saying, “I trust you, Lord.” Even when it hurts. Even when I’m afraid. Even when I don’t understand. Because even though most days the news makes me want to weep, there’s joy ahead.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the Lantern Hill Farm children’s picture book series. All personal proceeds from the sales of these books benefit children in the developing world. Connect at www.meadowrue.com