Monday, April 19, 2021

Meditations on 1 Peter (Part 1): Expect Suffering

Several years ago, when I first heard the term “theology of suffering” I thought, ‘Hhmm, not my favorite topic.” But as I listened, I became more aware that God’s Word addresses the subject often and that I needed to let God’s Word shape my thinking about the topic of suffering. Shortly after this, the Lord brought me into my own period of intense personal suffering, and I quickly realized that whatever my professed theology of suffering was, my practical theology of suffering was simply, “Run the other direction as quickly as possible!”In my own journey to make sense of how a good, sovereign God connects with the intense personal pain of suffering, I have often turned to the book of 1 Peter, written to encourage those facing difficult times to remain faithful. Recently I led a Bible study through the book of 1 Peter and was once again challenged to evaluate how I think about and respond to hardships in my life. As I’ve studied and meditated on 1 Peter over the last nine weeks, four words have helped me summarize a few of the key ideas of Peter’s teaching on suffering: Expect, Embrace, Entrust, and Engage. I’d like to spend some time looking at each of these words.

First of all, as believers in Christ we are to expect suffering. In 1 Peter 4:12 Peter exhorts the believers, “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.” Especially in our American culture of prosperity, we are often surprised at suffering. We are so used to having so many comforts. Some days my biggest immediate problem is that the internet is out, and I can’t stream the movie I want to watch. Meanwhile, much of the population of the world lacks access to food, water, shelter, and the security of political stability. My acquaintances may laugh at me or think I’m stupid if I voice my allegiance to Christ, but around the world my brothers and sisters are thrown in jail, kicked out of villages, or even killed. I am used to a life of comfort and ease and am surprised by even the slightest hardships.

My access to money and resources tempts me to think I have control over my life. I expend a lot of effort obtaining comfort and avoiding hardships, not that all of these efforts are wrong. They are not, but when all my efforts don’t keep all hardship at bay, I am surprised. The effects of the Fall still break into my life. So many factors are outside of my control. My best efforts can’t eliminate the decaying of my body. My best efforts can’t prevent the pain and losses of life. My best efforts can’t hold back encroaching death. My best efforts can’t stop other people from making sinful, foolish choices that hurt me. And I am often surprised at that.

In so many religions in the world, people go through all kinds of rituals, sacrifices, and behaviors to keep bad things from happening to themselves or their families. I think even subtly, we adopt a similar mindset. Almost automatically, difficult circumstances draw out the questions, “What did I do wrong? Is God angry with me? What sin caused this to happen?” If I do well enough at the Christian life, I hope God might spare me hardships. We may even think if I serve Him well enough, then God owes me a life free of suffering. So when suffering comes we are surprised.

But we have a Savior who clearly said, “In this world you will be have trouble. Others will hate you because they hated me first.” And we have a Savior who laid out the path of the Christian life – suffering, then glory (1 Pet. 1:11) This has always been God’s plan. The Savior would walk a path of suffering. Then He would be exalted in glory. We are called to follow our Savior down this same path (1 Pet. 2:21). Suffering should not surprise us. It should not catch us off guard. Our God has told us to expect it.

Kim Anderson

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this truth! I wish I could have joined this srudy and for some reason I could not even view the videos you sent this time. I've not been too taken aback by the tremendous suffering which has occured in the past year, but oh how it does hurt at times. Yet God has been faithful to show me a better path and He is growing my faith and trust in Him exponentially!