Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Understanding Suffering (1 Peter 5)

"The God of all grace … after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you" (1 Peter 5:10).

One thing that is more likely to cast a shadow over the light of faith than anything else is suffering. Because of the surprise so often manifested in the face of suffering, one would think it an uncommon occurrence; yet it is common to the human experience. Not only is suffering common, but it is promised. The fall opened the floodgate to affliction, trial, and suffering. Every sinner will face suffering at one time or another, and Christians especially can expect it. Paul said that we will suffer as Christ suffered, and that we should consider it an honor. What response, then, should we have when the light of Christ’s countenance is dim under the shadow of affliction?

The world has created its own solutions to the problem of suffering. It cannot escape this plague on humanity, but it has devised a variety of answers to it. Some people, known as Docetists, deal with suffering by denying its reality. Christian Scientists are modern-day Docetists who claim that suffering is only in the mind. Stoics face suffering with an emotionless wall. They do not allow suffering to penetrate the heart, but counter it with a total absence of feeling. The Hedonistic view of suffering counteracts pain with pleasure. Hedonism is the spirit of our age as people try to escape the painful realities of life by maximizing the delusion of pleasure through immorality. Lastly, the Existentialist considers suffering to be part of our meaningless existence, yet he faces it with “courage” anyway. The Existentialist sees suicide as the ultimate victory over suffering and death.

Often, Christians can fall into the trap of adopting one of these views in dealing with suffering. Instead, Christians should respond biblically by submitting to suffering as part of Cod’s will, experiencing legitimate grief in the midst of it, turning to God for comfort, continuing to rejoice in the Lord amid suffering, and trusting that God will work out all things for the good of His children—even in the way of suffering. Our supreme example in all things is Christ—this includes how we should respond to suffering. Christ endured the Cross because He knew it was His Father’s will. He obeyed in humble submission and continued to act righteously. Christ knows your sorrow, and you can find comfort and security in Him.

Find out about someone in your church who is facing some kind of suffering. Write that person a note, or go in person, and offer them encouragement from God’s Word. Tell them that Christ suffered too, and has promised to strengthen, encourage and finally redeem His people.