“Hey, do you think you can get this stain out, Mum?”
He handed me his T-shirt, still warm from his body, and I assured him that boiling water would make short work of blueberry juice on cotton. As the kettle boiled and the water poured and the steam rose from the kitchen sink, I thought long about what I would like to have said in that moment to this suddenly-grown-up son, this man scheduled to begin basic training with the U.S. Army in a week’s time. I wish I could have said to him:
“Yes, the stain will come out, and, incidentally, all manner of things shall be well with you. And also, this next step you are taking will lead to a secure future and certain success.” I wanted to assure him that my prayers for his safety and his flourishing would all be answered swiftly and to assert that young men who walk in God’s ways will always mellow into older men with happy marriages, fulfilling careers, respectful children, and long, God-honoring ministries.
Unfortunately, I happened to be reading in 1 Peter on the Morning of the Stained T-shirt, a letter written to persecuted, first-century Christians living under the cruel and oppressive thumb of the Roman Empire. When the great fire of Rome destroyed much of the city in the year 64, Emperor Nero quickly latched on to the occasion to blame Christians for the destruction and to clamp down on their growing influence. Who better to frame than the members of an upstart offshoot of Judaism?
A Meditation in Hope for Hard Times
Writing into this dark context, Peter’s goal was to encourage Christians in their long endurance of arrest, torture, and execution. Tradition holds that not too many years after finishing his second letter, he would be forced to look on as his wife was crucified—and then, later, would, himself, be crucified, upside down.
We’re told that Peter called out to his wife in her suffering, “Remember the Lord!” and I’m left to wonder how he would ever have come through that agony of watching and waiting for her death if he had lost sight of the Lord?
Is it possible he was recalling these words from his first letter addressed to “elect exiles of the Dispersion?”
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”1 Peter 1:13
Certainly, it was a solid remembering Peter prescribed to his readers—and to me as well on a morning when I was tempted to despair over the passing of time and the unwieldy way in which small boys become young men.
His letter comes alongside us all today with wise counsel to engage our brains purposefully, to use our minds to stoke the fire of full hope. Peter invites his readers to think hard for the sake of our hearts, to gather up energetically all the loose ends in our thinking. Even on days when our emotions might feel out of control, by grace we are empowered to employ our wills in the task of applying our minds soberly to known truth and then living forward in confident expectation.
What does it mean to be sober-minded? It’s thinking hard for the sake of your heart. It’s engaging your brain purposefully, using your mind to stoke the fire of full hope.Tweet
“REMEMBER THE LORD!”
Peter’s instruction manual shouts to me across cultures and centuries: “Remember the Lord!”
Is that how he, himself, faced a Roman cross?
Hoping through hard times requires a sinewy faith, a determination to trust the good intentions of a God who sometimes takes us through hard times when we would much prefer to steer around them.
As he planned the content of his letter, Peter would have known that empty promises of happy-clappy joy could not sustain his fellow believers in their hard choices and daily challenges. In fact, he acknowledged the reality of difficult times and even insisted that some suffering is necessary, sovereignly ordained by God as a refining fire:
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:6 ESV, emphasis mine).
In his greeting, Peter found just the right mindset for wishing his readers well. He blessed them with words I want to write on my own heart for all of my family’s comings and goings:
“May everything good from God be yours!” (1 Peter 1:2 MSG).
May it all be yours, my soldier son!
In the good that looks like blessing to my eyes and in the good that leaves me wondering, let my words to my sons and my prayers for them every day be steeped in the reality that, for the believer, hope has nothing to do with circumstances, but is a solid reality, anchored in timeless truth. The God who invented and then created all good things stands ready to guide this mum’s heart to a right understanding of true “goodness.”
Ten weeks of separation?
A demanding drill sergeant?
An unknown future?
Let me trust that it is all from God and all for God’s glory.
Let me remember the Lord.
Holding you in the light,
Hoping through hard times requires a sinewy faith, a determination to trust the good intentions of a God who sometimes takes us through hard times when we would much prefer to steer around them.Tweet
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