In Peter’s closing remarks to the churches in the Asia Minor, he affirms, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, ESV). This powerful sentence offers encouragement through the themes of restoration, confirmation, strengthening, and establishment. Let’s delve into God’s message of hope here.
To begin with, Peter acknowledges that Christians are not exempt from suffering, particularly the persecution that arises from identifying with Christ. While our trials may vary in nature, every Christian will experience some degree of suffering. It could manifest as insults, disparaging remarks, struggles with sin, disappointments in a broken world, tragic losses, poverty, imprisonment, or even death. Early Christians endured intense persecution, and many struggled with discouragement. Peter’s encouragement went beyond superficial motivation to ease their pain; it offered a hope that transcended their temporary discomfort.
Modern Christians often hold one of two extreme views of suffering, both of which Peter contradicts. The first extreme treats suffering as either an illusion or a sign of weak faith. This perspective suggests that Christians should not suffer, and even mentioning negative aspects of life, like sickness, is almost sinful. The books of Job and Ecclesiastes refute this view, and, in the New Testament, Jesus affirms that His followers will face trials and persecution (Matthew 5:10–12; Luke 9:23; John 16:33). Even Hebrews 11, the renowned chapter on faith, acknowledges suffering (verses 35–38). The other extreme involves adopting a defeatist attitude toward life due to its brokenness. Both extremes should be avoided in light of God’s promises.
God’s first encouragement to Christians, through Peter, is restoration. The Greek word for “restore” conveys the idea of making something whole again. Sin and suffering have left us broken, and we will not be fully restored this side of eternity. However, at the right time, God will restore all things, including us (see Revelation 2:15). In the Christian perspective, the afterlife is not just a consolation for the troubles of the present life; it is a renewal into God’s intended state. As C. S Lewis opined, “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory” (The Great Divorce, Macmillan, p. 64).
Additionally, God promises to confirm, strengthen, and establish us. He fully acknowledges that we are His, that He gifts us with strength, and that He will establish us, that is, He will keep us rooted. Through it all, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Hence, we need not deny the reality of suffering—even for righteous individuals—nor do we fall into despair. It can be dismaying to witness the prevalence of evil in the world, and we may wonder why God appears silent. However, the God who suffered in the Person of Jesus has shown us that He is active both in good and bad times. We can always rely on His grace when the burden feels too much to bear.