1 Peter 2
“For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if you do what is right and suffer for it, you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps.” ( 1 Peter 2:20b-21)
What if there were a way to change the sea of trouble engulfing you today into still waters of joy and peace? What if there were a way for that very pain to transform you into all God ever intended? There is! And that’s our theme today: transforming pain.
For example, how could a good God with all power allow a doctor and nurse, who had for a quarter century been dispensing life to the very lost people of Yemen, to be gunned down at the hospital entrance?
Puzzled, distressed, we turn to the Bible for answers. Because the greatest pain is meaningless suffering. Still, there IS meaning to our suffering. That glorious truth Scripture highlights by its stories from Genesis to Revelation.
As I grow older and the troubles of my family and friends grow greater, I return over and over to what the Bible has to say is the meaning of our suffering. I was delighted to discover the first pastor of the First Church at Jerusalem, Peter, refers to all our questions about pain. He answers….Whose suffering does he address? What kind of suffering? Where does it come from? Why does God permit it? How may we make it transforming? And when does relief come?
First then; whose suffering does Peter address? Astonishingly, Jesus’ suffering and yours are intertwined throughout. Everyone suffers.
Another strange thing confronts us when we ask…Where does this suffering come from? The number one culprit, we like to think, is our great enemy, Satan. And he IS the source of both devouring temptation AND persecution. “Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8) Perhaps we think, “Millions in the world suffer persecution and Peter speaks reassurance to them.” And the reassurance IS for those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake. But that isn’t all Satan does to devour us. He tempts us to sin, he creates all kinds of human suffering. But he’s not the only source, nor, perhaps, the chief source of our suffering. Our human condition is often the source of pain. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11) see also (1 Peter 4:12).
Did you notice? Both temptation and opposition are part of the daily environment of every one of us. We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to Christians just as to anyone else. If Christians had no suffering, everyone would want to become a “Christian” – and for all the wrong reasons!
But if you ask the why question when trouble comes, you’re in good company: David asked it constantly. Even Jesus asked “Why?” Of course, there’s a good “why” and a bad “why”. The bad why is accusing God. God, you’re not smart enough—I know a better way. Or, God, you’re not strong enough to handle this problem. Or, God, you are smart enough and strong enough, but you don’t care that much about me. It’s the why of unbelief.
But the why of faith—that’s different. Why did you let this happen, God, what is your purpose in this? How can I use this pain for your glory? Why does God send it or permit it? Many possible reasons but always two: my growth, his glory. How can these two reasons for pain transform your suffering?