Written by Paul J. Bucknell on November, 29, 2022
Enduring My Sufferings: A 1 Peter Study on Suffering
‘Enduring My Sufferings’ is a follow-up article to ‘Enjoying My Vulnerabilities’ that teaches that we need not fear insecurity if we know Jesus.
Once I published the first article on vulnerabilities, the Lord led me into a bout of sickness—I’m still there. Instead of one big colossal problem, there have been numerous physical difficulties and sicknesses, debilitating in various ways. Each wave of pain and displeasure further tests my theology—what I believe about God, man, and suffering.
Like vulnerabilities, we desperately search for the nearest escape from sickness, pain, and suffering. I love body surfing in the ocean waves, but sooner or later, I can tell I’m near exhaustion. I want to be back on the beach, but it takes time to reach there. Strong waves cause strong back currents, surging ocean waters pushing me back into the deep. I struggle to reach a peaceful, restful time on the beach, avoiding dangerous situations.
Characteristics of Suffering
Suffering, in its many forms, like vulnerabilities, similarly touches our fears and insecurities. We do not know where our situation will lead. Suffering, whether prolonged sickness or distresses from various situations, adds another dimension that tries our trust in God’s purposes for our lives differently.
The Strong’s Concordance defines the Greek word for suffering (pathaymay) as: “something undergone, i.e. hardship or pain; subjectively, an emotion or influence:- affection, affliction, motion, suffering.” netbible
Suffering entails pressing, excruciating, and ongoing pain and consequences, whether deserved or not, causing agony (disease, torture, or left beaten) and undesirable situations (i.e., being placed in an unhealthy prison). The response is the same— seeking immediate relief and escape. Those in vulnerable situations also look for deliverance but not with the same urgency as those in extreme pain and discomfort. The emotional and physical pain causes extreme stress, often ongoing.
While vulnerability looks at the gradual decline of our faculties or situations, the worst is reserved for the future. Those suffering, however, have already entered affliction’s closet with no obvious way to open it.
Can it get worse? Yes. Another cancer can be discovered. One might be beaten again, or one might hear a family member unjustly facing brutal situations. The sufferer, however, is already facing what seems to be the end and survival.
Four Views on Suffering (1 Peter)
Peter addressed those suffering (used 16 times in 1 Peter). We will highlight four passages from 1 Peter to help us learn how to endure these extreme hardships.
1) Endurance (1 Peter 4:19)
“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19).
Suffering puts us in circumstances beyond our control—out of man's control but not God’s! Note the two ways God directs the future.
First, they must “entrust their souls” to a faithful Creator. Their bodies are already beyond rescue—lest a miracle happen. Therefore, they are to observe the state of their souls. While man can destroy the body, they cannot touch the soul (Mat 10:28). There is a limit to what can be done; God, our “faithful Creator,” has everything in hand.
Second, they can trust God for justice. Peter especially speaks to those who suffered unjustly or witnessed loved ones suffering. God will do “what is right.” They need not be concerned with the bigger life questions.
“Just a little longer.”
2) Excellence (1 Peter 5:10)
“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
In 1 Peter 5:10 Peter admits to the temporary nature of our lives on earth: “suffered for a little while.” For those suffering, it means there is an end, which serves as a noble escape from pain and misery. Suffering’s intense pain and agony, tend to have us look at the world beyond, welcoming the departure from this earthly life.
Who can stand another day of constant pain? Who can endure the way one’s family is being horribly treated? The suffering will end and we, and all those who trust in Christ, will enter “His eternal glory in Christ.” The eternal will replace the temporary, and all that we suffer will quickly fade into the past. God’s grace—not our goodness—will ensure His promise’s marvelous unfolding.
Peter also notes that He will “Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” One would first think that this applies to this time of suffering. God proves us through our trials, but they have a greater end that will only be revealed in glory. Though now being perfected, we will then be perfect or complete. God will unfold His abounding glorious grace in their lives (“all grace”). We are miserably weak and tried now, but then, our strength—God’s grace in us, will be apparent.
“Soon, all will be wonderful.”
3) Powerful (1 Peter 5:6-7)
“6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Peter lays out God’s plan for us in verses 6-7. This plan follows our Master, the Lord Jesus’ own life plan (cf Isaiah 53): Humility precedes exaltation.
We will fail if we attempt to answer the deep questions of pain and suffering. We only look at part of the equation on earth and miss the whole plan.
First, understand that this whole process is in God’s hands. Don’t try to control it. Yes, we seek survival; God has given us this instinct, but it’s up to Him to grant us delivery through recovery or release into His kingdom. Don’t stoop to demanding this or complaining it shouldn’t be that way (Phil 2:14). We know this, but if we join the world’s chorus, we obliterate the true picture of God’s sovereign control over suffering in an evil world. Instead, the truth gives us peace because of God’s powerful control.
Note how Peter stresses this. He first states, “the mighty hand of God.” God is mighty! The Almighty controls all things, even the evil that happened to His Son (see fourth verse below). If God has all power, He oversees all that happens to His people seeking Him. Nothing has gone haywire. Our pain might increase to where we cannot bear it; we might have no food to eat; our houses were taken away, etc. God almighty still reigns. Praise Him for His mighty work.
God also wonderfully controls the timing. “At the proper time” points out that the time of endurance is already set, not too long and not too short (though in our eyes every second seems too long). It also comforts us by living within situations that God dictates, not the world or one who hates us. God’s people, or lambs, are never left to the hands of evil, mad people, or to the accidental—no matter how much it looks so.
God’s plan incorporates evil into His greater and eternal redemptive scheme. The Book of Revelation uncovers this great plan, from chapter one to the end in Revelation 22. God grants the presence and horror of evil to show its fierce face, even against God’s people, but the storm completely ends upon Christ’s return.
“I’m still in control.”
4) Purposefulness (1 Peter 4:1)
“Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1).
Christ’s sufferings reprove Satan’s diabolical lies. He points to our excruciating pain, ridicule, and seemingly purposeless existence. He taunts God’s people into giving up on God’s care. “Why does He allow you to suffer if He is so loving?”
Peter powerfully combats this dark lie with the glorious truth of Christ’s suffering. We understand how some might think Jesus only pretended to suffer, but the Old and New Testaments equally announce and proclaim the truth of Christ’s traitorous death on the cross. Jesus suffered greatly, bearing our sins, but also conquered death!
Whenever we might question God’s sincere purpose, we only need to see that His chosen Son paved the way for us.
Paul’s time in prison looked purposeless; his beatings looked senseless. Why doesn’t God declare the glory of the Gospel through magnificent deliveries? They sometimes occur, but many more times, they did not. Disease, pain, hunger, and affliction, even martyrdom, all look purposeless, but like Christ, we will be rewarded as we follow the path the Lord has outlined for us in the steps of Christ.
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Rom 8:35)
Our suffering, emotional or otherwise, can never exceed Christ’s sufferings. He “suffered in the flesh.”
Our purpose is not to acquire things or look successful on earth but to put aside our sins and follow Christ, no matter what the cost.
Vulnerability reveals our weaknesses and insecurity in light of our difficulties. Suffering, however, marches into our lives, clamoring for our full attention with threats of death, treachery, evil acts, and agonizing situations.
Pleasure and delight have dissipated. Our world is transitioning from this earth to that of God’s kingdom and purposes. We begin to let go of our earthly concerns, seeing that we have nothing to contribute to them and begin to entertain God’s greater purposes.
God does not comfort those suffering in 1 Peter by stating that they will get better. It might happen, but it’s all in God’s control. More importantly, we can use our last sane thoughts to entrust our souls to God and forgive our enemies. We take comfort in God’s mighty control over our circumstances and the length of our suffering. But most of all, we gain increased respect for our Master Lord Jesus, who volunteered to suffer on the cross. He stepped into what we are persistently trying to flee—suffering. Who can question His enduring love? We can take hope in our gracious Lord who went ahead of us.
Sufferings provide unique opportunities, even if they last months, for a deeper awareness and appreciation of God’s grand purposes for our lives—even He deems we suffer.
Bible Study Questions on Suffering from 1 Peter
- How do the sufferers share certain experiences with the vulnerable?
- How do they differ?
- How does 1 Peter 4:19 counsel us on our possible last moments of life?
- What do the words “in doing what is right” in 1 Peter 4:19 additionally direct us to do?
- What does the word “all” add to the meaning of “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10)?
- What significance does God’s calling “you to his eternal glory in Christ” have (1 Peter 5:10)?
- How does 1 Peter 5:6-7 help us with thoughts that say God has lost control or that He doesn’t love us?
- Why does 1 Peter 5:7 tell us to cast all our anxiety on Him?
- Why does Peter emphasize the suffering of Christ? (1 Peter 4:1)
- 10. Have you considered that you are following Christ’s path? Explain. How would it help us?
Other Related References to suffering, pain, persecution, etc., in Paul Bucknell’s articles
Romans 8:18-25 Understanding Christian Suffering is an introduction to the last section of Romans 8, Conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:26-39).
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