The Big Reframe: How to Replace Suffering with Abounding Hope

I confess: the Bible used to sometimes bore me or make no sense or seem antiquated. I secretly thought the Bible couldn’t address the problems I was facing.

Bible
(Image from Unsplash)

Until . . . I took a class called Hermeneutics (her-meh-new-tiks) at Dallas Theological Seminary. The class taught us a few key principles for reading Scripture.

When read and applied correctly, these principles are a total gamechanger. The pages of Scripture become electric with hope and meaning for you TODAY.

Three Principles of Bible Study

Principle 1: Read and observe the words of Scripture carefully and deliberately. Don’t add or subtract words or infer meaning; simply read the passage as it is written.

For example, our first assignment in hermeneutics class was to document 50 observations from Acts 1:8. I kid you not. I got to 25 and considered calling my dad for the rest, knowing he could whip out 250 without blinking. But that would have been cheating, so I refrained.

The next week’s assignment was to find 50 more!

Principle 2: Interpret the Bible historically, grammatically, and contextually. Ask the “W” questions:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

(also ask how, when applicable).

Answering these questions each time we read prevents us from “proof texting”—taking a verse or passage out of context and, as a result, attributing to it an inaccurate meaning. (Most often, this happens when we want Scripture to say what we want rather than allowing it to speak to us.)

Principle 3: Connect passages with—or correlate—other passages in Scripture. The book of Isaiah in the Old Testament foretells the coming of Christ. In the New Testament, the Gospels explicitly describe the incarnation of Christ. They are connected. This is called cross-referencing or studying parallel passages.

By the time I completed hermeneutics class, my Bible reading became insatiably exciting. I found truths, concepts, life-changing wisdom, and daily direction I had missed for years. It was like going from reading a black-and-white paper map to navigating with Google Earth!

Digging Deep into Scripture

It’s time to dig deep into the pages of Scripture, rich with layers of meaning, hope, truth, peace, and wisdom. Let’s get started by reading a passage from 1 Peter 5.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen. (NLT)

Peter wrote this letter to first century Christians who were suffering unimaginable persecution while scattered throughout the known world. Peter offered words of hope and encouragement . . . to help them reframe their circumstances through an eternal lens.

The ruler of their day was Nero. This Roman emperor’s persecution of Christians was notoriously brutal. He would impale a person while still alive, then light him or her on fire to provide light during his evening outdoor parties.

Some Christian martyrs were torn apart by vicious animals. (Principle 2—context is vital.)

Peter knew this fear and called his flock to cast—another word for “give”—their worries and anxiety on the Lord. While most of us will never be ripped apart by wild beasts, we all suffer through seasons of great anxiety, worry, and fear.

The cause of fear is not the point here; fear is a symptom of a core issue . . . a lack of trust that God has our back. Notice, God’s care did not rescue those who died under Nero’s reign.

The passage doesn’t say trust God and He will remove your suffering; it calls us to call upon Him as we suffer.

So often, we want God to do what we desire, forgetting He has a good eternal plan infinitely superior to ours. But suffering is promised in this life (James 1:2).

In fact, this passage uses similar language as Psalm 55:22 and the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, commanding us to “cast our burdens on the Lord” (Principles 2 and 3).

God Knows

Peter mentions the “enemy” in this passage. Satan is not omnipresent—he cannot exist in all places at all times like our God. However, Satan uses fallen circumstances, fallen creation, and unbelievers to execute destruction.

Nero, persecution from those in the local synagogues, and rejection from unbelieving friends and family all served Satan’s purposes of division and conquering.

Peter reminds his readers that they are not alone and God has a good plan. One day, all suffering will be removed, and God will indeed restore and strengthen us, placing us on a firm foundation.

Scripture doesn’t state when this will happen, but when we seek God, we must remember He is outside of human time. What seems like forever to us is nothing to our God. That’s why Romans 5:1–5 calls us to endure.

Endure

(Image from Unsplash)

The discipline of endurance shapes our character and grows us in Christ-likeness. He understands our suffering because He suffered more than any human being will ever suffer.

Our Father knows right where you are, right now. Will you lean on Him, give Him all the worries eating you up today, finding that when we remove anxiety it is replaced with His peace? This is a practice I do more than once a day . . . it’s continual.

Finally, take note of the commands and promises given:

Commands

  1. Humble yourself.
  2. Give your worries and cares to God.
  3. Stay alert.
  4. Watch out (specifically for the tactics of the Enemy).
  5. Stand firm.
  6. Be strong (in faith . . . not in any other power but your faith in Christ).
  7. Remember the suffering of other saints.
  8. Suffer with an eternal view (suffering lasts only a “little while”).
  9. Praise God for His mighty power.

Promises

  1. Our God is mighty and powerful.
  2. He will help you.
  3. He honors the humble.
  4. He loves you.
  5. Our God is kind.
  6. Christians have been called by God to eternal glory.
  7. As a Christian, your eternity is established.
  8. On earth, you will suffer—but not forever.
  9. God will restore you.
  10. God will support you.
  11. God will strengthen you.
  12. God will give you a strong foundation.
  13. God is all powerful—we can thoroughly trust in Him always.

Let Me Hear from You

In 6 verses, I found 14 promises . . . maybe you will find more. How great is our God who is with you today? Did you ever imagine all that was in a few verses? Just sit and ponder all God’s promised you. What hope, what peace!

The fourth principle of studying the Bible is most important: application. It doesn’t matter how well we read and study the Bible if the Word doesn’t change us. We need to live out the principles that we read!

How has this passage connected with your life today? I cannot wait to hear from you!

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  • Leesa

    Hello Colleen,
    Hermeneutics! That is so great. I am going to read the same scripture of Acts 1:8 and see if I can come up with ten observations? your thoughts once again seem so directed to me and how another Christian friend may be placing her own meaning into the scripture and overall truth of suffering. I was accused of being like the tv Joel Olsten? which of this individual opinion is not a true Christian, in her perspective suffering continues and not to be better, her reality is suffering continues and all to glorify God.
    I agree from my own understanding of “seasons” and suffering that is years of human time, not anything to God, and that so many bible character stories and in my own life prove there is a spring with beautiful blooms,whether this life or eternal life, there is peace and incredible joy if we stay close and firm in the Lord and trust and believe eternally with Him. I know for me even Genesis 50:20, what was better appeared once this scripture had meaning in my life with family and forgiveness and openings I never dreamed of. It was for all good. Yes to glorify God work in all ways, but not to ignore it is His work to have lifted to better and to be able find the great joy and express myself as joyous over the top refreshing spring season appearing, a lightness that only God could lift in His own design and timing.
    So I have been sitting with a discomfort internally of perhaps frustration of the overall perspective of a given reader, what ultimately is I believe as you have set on this page,1.”Read and observe the words of Scripture carefully and deliberately. Don’t add or subtract words or infer meaning; simply read the passage as it is written”;and “Answering these questions each time we read prevents us from “proof texting”—taking a verse or passage out of context and, as a result, attributing to it an inaccurate meaning. (Most often, this happens when we want Scripture to say what we want rather than allowing it to speak to us.) – Colleen Swindoll Thompson
    I am going to pray not to be discouraged but how God wants me to respond or what it is He wants of me with this having been said to me.There is an issue with boundaries with this experience too, when someone infers meaning and pins on another distorted view of its context? I will remain firm in the Lord and seek wisdom.
    Nero persecutions are new to my understanding, and how horrific, Thank you for your great gift of knowledge and wisdom ,what a great post filled with strength of foundation by strong roots of history by example.
    Thank you
    Leesa

  • Juan Garcia

    Thank you for explaining and outlining the commands and promises of the section in I Peter 5. And thanks for the reminder to allow these truths to be part if my continual and daily meditation.

    • Juan,
      It is so great to connect with you today. I’m thrilled the post was an encouragement to you and will be part of your continued growth in Christ Jesus.
      I’ve found that when I focus on God’s promises, my worries are replaced by worshiping our Lord; He knows what is ahead and we can rest in that.
      I love hearing that you put God’s word into your heart, meditating on it each day. There is such power in His word…I’m reminded of Psalm 1…the recognition that meditating on His word day and night provides strength and confidence needed every day. Please stay in touch…what passages have you been studying that have meant a lot to you? I’m always wanting to learn more! Have a wonderful day! Colleen