My cell phone rang and woke me up. Luella, my wife, was on the other end. “Get home as fast as you can,” she said. The car journey seemed to take forever. Our daughter, Nicole, had been walking home from work in the city when a drunk and unlicensed driver lost control of her SUV, careened up onto the sidewalk, and crushed Nikki against a wall.
Doctors told us later that if this accident had happened in the suburbs, Nicole probably wouldn’t have lived long enough to get to the hospital. The center part of her skeleton had been shattered—eleven breaks of her pelvis alone, plus many other devastating injuries.
I am thankful to report that Nicole is doing very well today, but for three years of emotional and spiritual travail, we simply focused on getting her through the day and hoped and prayed that tomorrow would be better.
When suffering enters your door, and it will, where do you look for hope, rest, and relief? If you are near someone in pain, what comfort do you offer them? Where do you run when people fail you, and God seems impossible to understand?
For the Tripp family, the promise of heaven gave us what we needed to face each morning. Not just the assurance that God has guaranteed us a future free from physical suffering, but that he has promised to protect us in the meantime. One passage, in particular, gave us practical and transformative hope:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials” (1 Peter 1:3-6, ESV, added emphasis mine).
The Enemy tried to whisper in my ear, “But Paul, God didn’t guard you or Nicole. Look what happened to your family.” But guarded doesn’t mean that God will give you a ticket out of difficulty and pain. No, this promise of protection addresses a more profound danger than the physical and circumstantial challenges we all face in this fallen world.
Guarded means that in your moment of suffering, God provides you with the grace to fight bitterness, doubt of God, and the temptation to run away from your faith. This protective grace allows us not to give way to panic and fear, bombarding ourselves with questions no human can answer.
Peter cannot think about today’s suffering without looking at it from the perspective of an eternity tomorrow. Notice his language: “living hope,” “resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” “inheritance … kept in heaven for you,” and “salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Peter is saying that what is coming is a critical lens for understanding our present painful experiences. When we put on these gospel glasses, we indeed will experience “living hope.” This hope is something different than the empty optimism of distant, religious clichés. It is the security of real provision in desperate times of need.
Every day of your life, whether you have eyes to see it or not, God is guarding you. His presence guarantees that when the door of heaven opens, you will be there to walk through it. Not only that, but it guarantees help along the way. The One who promised you forever is your Guard along the way.
There is absolutely no circumstance where he will abandon you before you are on the other side of eternity with him forever!
Paul David Tripp
1. What is the most devastating news you ever received?
2. What made the news so crushing?
3. How did you respond in the immediate aftermath to receiving that news? What did you tell yourself about God and his promises?
4. How did God guard you through that period of loss or suffering? How is God protecting you today, even if you are not experiencing difficulty?
5. How can you bring practical comfort and hope to others who are suffering right now? How can you incarnate the person of Jesus in specific ways and avoid relying on religious clichés?