1 Peter 4:12-13. 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:19. Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Every Christian needs a theology of suffering, a sufferology if you will. A failure to understand suffering is probably the greatest obstacle to faith in God and the greatest stumbling block along the journey for Christians. Because we can’t make sense of suffering, we can’t make sense of God. And because we don’t know how to connect our own suffering to Christ’s suffering, we fail to make disciples of the cross.
What is suffering?
We suffer when we lack something that we desire. We desire good health but are ill – suffering. We desire to be married but remain single – suffering. We desire to be single but remain married – suffering. We desire sexual expression but choose purity – suffering. Or, as in 1 Peter, we desire a peaceful and quiet life of faith but face persecution – suffering.
It is true also that suffering is not only caused by our outward circumstance, but more so by our inner response to it. In fact, the majority of our suffering is caused by our inner attitudes – how much we desire and how we respond to those unmet desires.
What causes suffering?
This answer is not simple. Suffering can be caused by simply living in a fallen world full of chaos and entropy (disease, natural disasters). Or suffering might be caused directly by your sin or rebellion (addiction, discontent). Or it might be caused directly by someone else’s sin (trauma, injustice). And suffering can (and will) also come from doing good as you live out your faith.
What are some bad ways we respond to suffering?
Understanding how we respond to suffering is even more important than understanding the cause of our suffering. Peter will talk about at least three poor responses to suffering in 1 Peter 4.
- Surprise (4:12): But Christians living in a fallen world, surrounded by the forces of evil, should expect suffering.
- Shame (4:16): But Christians will never be put to shame by God.
- Sin (4:15): Suffering Christians must not lean on God substitutes for temporary relief (money, sex, power, control, numbing).
Why does God allow suffering?
Let’s be honest, we almost can’t imagine that God’s top priority wouldn’t be to decrease our suffering. Isn’t that what love is? Ending suffering? Isn’t happiness the purpose of having Jesus?
But God is far more concerned with eliminating our sin than he is eliminating our suffering. The truth of the cross, is that the only way to deal with sin and bring about righteousness is through suffering. Resurrection only comes through the cross. Glory only comes through the receiving of grace in the midst of the pain and suffering.
So what is the solution to our suffering?
The ultimate solution to suffering is, of course, the return of Christ and the establishment of all righteousness and justice on earth, and the end of all sin both in and around us. In other words, the revealing of Christ’s glory.
But what about for today? What is the daily cure for suffering?
Eastern religions would say eliminate all desire. But Peter and Christ say the opposite – increase your desire. Find a greater desire for Jesus. For your heavenly Father. For the Spirit’s love and goodness. As Peter says, entrust your soul to your faithful Creator.
Christian, we must see all our suffering as a sharing in the suffering of Christ. In yesterday’s reading we saw how Peter made the cross of Christ his example. His pattern for all of life. The cross is now our whole way of living. “To live is Christ” means that in suffering we can share in Christ, and in his acceptance by God. We can share in his friendship with the Spirit. We can share in his courage, and in his holiness. We can share in his goodness and compassion, in his love, in his very life. And then, one day, we WILL share in his eternal glory.
What is your sufferology?
You in Christ
Why does being in Christ mean we must suffer?
Christ in you
How can you see all your suffering as sharing in Christ’s suffering?
Playlist: Suffering With Christ.
Click Here to this playlist on Spotify!
To see today’s post from the TLIC Family blog –> Click Here