Is Suffering the Will of God?
1 Peter 4
The subject of suffering can be a source of conflict among believers and non-believers alike. Within the Church there is a wide variety of passionate opinions on the topic, and a tendency to want to choose sides. I’ve experienced many teachings from various perspectives that leave me asking questions:
Is suffering caused by our own foolishness and decisions made in our flesh?
Is suffering caused by the broken, fallen nature of the world in which we live?
Is suffering caused by Satan and his demonic forces who wage war against us?
Do we suffer at the hand of a sovereign God who does with us what accomplishes His purposes in and through us?
To be honest, this is a subject that I personally wrestle with. I do not have all the answers to this, because, frankly, none of us can fully comprehend Almighty God. I propose that the answers are:
Let’s look together at what scripture says and then we can continue to pursue God for answers and clarity as we grow.
Suffering because of the sinful flesh
1 Peter 4:15 exhorts us: “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” This leads us to understand that some suffering is caused by our own actions and decisions made in the sinful flesh. James chapter 1 lays it out pretty simply:
And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15 NLT)
Suffering as a result of the fallen state of our world
From the time that sin and death entered the world, all of creation has suffered. Although as believers in Christ we are redeemed to God and no longer subject to the curse of the fall, we will continue to deal with sickness, death, and persecution, to a name a few, because of the unredeemed nature of the world in which we live.
Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering (Romans 8:19-22 NLT).
I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (John 16:33).
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12)
Suffering because of Satan
We have a very real adversary. And he is waging a very real war against us. Oftentimes our suffering is caused by a direct attack from a supernatural enemy.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world (1 Peter 5:8-10).
Suffering by the will of God
Whether we like it or not, and whether we can logically make sense of it or not, our God is sovereign over all. He accomplishes His purposes, even through suffering.
I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the LORD, am the one who does these things (Isaiah 45:7 NLT).
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
A Faithful Creator. This is the only time is scripture that this name for God is used and interestingly within the context of suffering according to His will. The bottom line for me is, even though I don’t always understand suffering, and I may not ever have all the answers, I serve a God who created me.
He is a faithful Creator.
When He created this world, He did it for love. He said it was good. And I don’t believe that it was His heart for His creation to suffer. For now, we must choose to know Him and trust Him in the midst of a world where Satan prowls, where sin is ever-present, and where death is inevitable. But there is a coming a day when our Creator God will make all things new and restore it to its original perfection!
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Live Free. Live Loved.