1 Peter 4:12-19, Isaiah 11:1-5, Matthew 5:3-12
Our most common question when suffering comes is “Why?” Why is this happening, and, more specifically, why is it happening to me? We are floored by unexpected troubles. While it’s natural and okay to wonder, this passage from 1 Peter frames the response to suffering quite differently. “Do not be surprised… as if something unusual were happening to you.” Peter is telling us to expect suffering and hardship. He also gives an answer to the question, “Why?”
Scripture offers a multi-layered and miles-deep answer to why people suffer, all of which is anchored in the sovereignty of God and the result of sin in the world. Some suffering is a result of the natural world’s brokenness and being cursed (Genesis 3). Some is the result of our sins and stupidity. Some is the result of injustice and others’ sin. But this passage looks particularly at suffering that is a result of living for Jesus, the cost of faithfulness to Him. The cause of this suffering is doing right, following our Savior, and being in Christ. It is suffering for being where, what, and who we truly ought to be.
That may be the cause of the suffering, but it is not the purpose of it. First Peter chapter 4 points us to the purpose: to “share in the sufferings of Christ so that you may rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed” (v.13). It goes on to say, “If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed because the spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (v.14). Rejoice. Be blessed. The purpose of this suffering is to draw us closer to Jesus in such a way that we profoundly recognize and know His joy and His Spirit.
In the midst of suffering we often struggle to feel this truth. We know it, we remember it, but we don’t sense it. What we sense is the injustice and pain of suffering, both of which are profoundly real. Scripture speaks to this too. It speaks to the injustice by promising a Judge, a defender whose “delight will be in the fear of the LORD,” who will not judge based on appearances or earthly standards, but will “judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed” (Isaiah 11:3–4).
Scripture speaks to the pain by promising wholeness. The beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–11) are a liturgy for the hurting and those who are the lowest. What do they promise? Comfort, inheritance, fullness, mercy, the presence, kinship, and kingdom of God. This is why we can “entrust [ourselves] to a faithful Creator while doing what is good” (1 Peter 4:19). He has promised that our suffering has a purpose, that justice is coming, and that comfort will abound in His kingdom and for His family.
Written by Barnabas Piper