Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Surprised by Suffering (1 Peter 4:12-19)

"Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you …" (1 Peter 4:12).

As we read of Job’s suffering, we cannot help but reflect on our own. In truth, that is exactly what we are supposed to do. God gives us the account of Job in part to teach us something about pain and suffering. Suffering is a common experience of God’s people throughout Scripture. Why is it so common? And if it is so common, why are we still surprised when it happens to us? Because this is a reality everyone faces in one form or another, we will explore the theme of suffering in the next six blog posts.

The Apostle Peter wrote on this subject to some dear friends in 1 Peter 4. We learn some great lessons from Peter on how to comfort those who are going through difficult circumstances. First, he told them not to be surprised by the fiery trials they were then suffering, as if it were a strange occurrence. Why did Peter not consider this suffering to be strange? It is because all Christians should expect to live as their Lord had lived—a life of suffering. Paul tells us that we must share in His suffering that we might also share in His glory. That means we cannot expect to be treated by a world hostile to God any differently than the way in which Christ was treated. Peter, then, concludes that if you suffer as a Christian, you should not be ashamed, or confused, but you should rejoice because then you know that the Spirit of God rests upon you. Not only should we expect suffering in some measure, we should anticipate it.

Next, Peter tells his friends that their suffering is also the result of God’s judgment (v. 17). This is a very difficult thing to tell someone who is facing a trial, and it should be done with great gentleness. But one way God teaches us, corrects us, and shapes our character is through suffering. How then, should we act when God disciplines us? Peter says that those who suffer according to the purposes of God should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do the good works He has called them to do. This takes a great deal of humility, for we must recognize that we have received no more than we deserve and that God’s ways are higher than ours. God has a purpose in our pain, and that is our anchor in the midst of suffering.

We suffer for two reasons: as followers of Christ, and as God’s children, whom He disciplines. Why do both these reasons give you hope in your suffering? What is the purpose of discipline? How does this reveal God’s love for you? What kind of changes do you need to make in a your attitude concerning suffering?