Monday, July 4, 2022

Surprised by Suffering (1 Peter 4)

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you" (1 Peter 4:12).

We have encountered the theme of suffering time and again throughout the Psalms. David endured a lifetime of suffering at the hands of enemies, family, and even friends. At times he seemed unable to face the pain, but God upheld him and gave him the grace to overcome the doubts and despair that threatened to ensnare him. Because this theme is so prevalent in the Psalms, we will be taking a closer look at the topic of suffering during the next six studies.

Suffering is difficult and painful, yet essential to the Christian life. Even though we should expect it, we are often surprised by the suffering we face. Instead of humbly accepting our circumstances, we grow angry with God, asking Him why bad things happen to us. We envision a God who is removed from the pain in our lives, who doesn’t care about our suffering, or who is unable to change it. But the Scriptures inform us that God is intimately involved in our suffering. He is sovereign in all areas of our lives, and He is in control of our pain. He allows suffering to manifest itself in this world for a number of reasons. He teaches us patience through suffering. He chastises us through suffering. He strengthens our faith in Him through our suffering. He enables us to minister to one another through suffering, causing us to become more selfless, more Christ-like.

In His sovereign plan, God has good reasons for allowing us to endure pain and tragedy. We may not always know the reasons in every situation, but we can trust that He works all things for the good of His people. When we suffer we participate in the sufferings of Christ. We should be honored that we can endure even a fraction of what our Lord faced while on earth.

Pain always has a purpose. The pain Christ endured ushered in redemption for His people. In the face of great suffering, Christ trusted His holy Father. We can do no less. When we face trials that are far less than our Lord endured, our response should be the same as His—one of humble submission to God’s providence and one of hope and trust in the goodness of God who redeems His people and works all things for their good.

How do you respond to suffering friends? What can you tell them about God? What does the Bible teach about comforting someone who is suffering as a result of their sin? (see 2 Cor. 1:3–5; 2:4–11) Think about how you deal with suffering and pray that God increase your faith that you may praise Him in times of trial.