I don’t usually open with song lyrics from 1970, but as I read 1 Peter 1:3-9, these words keep running through my head. It’s like I can hear Jesus saying these words: “I love you my child, but life is not going to be easy. There will be good days and bad. The rose is beautiful, but it does have thorns. I will provide you the joy and warmth of the sun, but along with it will come the rain.” I know, I know, it’s not a Biblical passage, but for me it conveys the reality that people, even Christians, will face trials: family conflict, loss of a job, financial troubles, health issues, or the death of a loved one, war, pestilence, famine, and perhaps even persecution for their faith. Anderson said of the song: “I believe that 'Rose Garden' was released at just the right time. People were trying to recover from the Vietnam years. The message in the song — that if you just take hold of life and go ahead, you can make something out of nothing."  Our God does that. He turns our suffering into something. From the nothingness of loneliness and despair, he give us his promise of new life. He knows our troubles, yet has provided us a way through the trials: faith in the Risen Jesus! In him, we have hope for a better future. Not only in heaven, but in the here and now because we have Jesus, our brother and Lord, who has walked in our shoes, He who had his faith in the Father tested in the most horrific way.
Peter writes: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9, NRSV)
Peter was writing to new Christians that were suffering for their faith. They faced both persecution from the authorities and ridicule from others who thought believers had been deceived. Perhaps they thought their suffering was punishment from God for not being “good enough” or for having doubt. No matter the cause of their suffering, Peter reassures these new Christians that Christ’s resurrection paves the path to eternal life. God’s plan of salvation has been accomplished and we are heirs to an imperishable inheritance. Peter exhorts the followers to rejoice in their salvation even in the face of suffering.
God’s children will experience suffering. No doubt about it. Scripture is filled with references to the suffering of humanity, but in this passage, Peter reminds us that we have HOPE! Our God in Christ Jesus has comforted his people throughout the ages. He will never leave us or forsake us. We live in the promise of new life. The Baptized people of God awake each day as new creations. We shed the sins of yesterday. One day when this life is over and we receive our imperishable inheritance, we will walk in the Garden once again with our good and gracious God for eternity. So perhaps, Jesus really did promise us a Rose Garden….
O God, we long to walk with you in rose garden of eternity, where the thorns have been stripped away and the rain no longer falls. While we wait for that glorious day when we will be reunited with you in heaven, be our comfort, our hope for a brighter day in this life. In the name of Jesus Christ, Savior, Redeemer, and Lord we pray. Amen
Navigating my way through the thorns and rain,
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