Is There Purpose in Suffering? Part 1
Whenever our lives are disrupted, it is a form of suffering. Our lives may get disrupted by health issues, broken relationships, financial hardships, a government imposing on our freedoms as human beings, or various other situations. Some of life’s disruptions may be temporary while others may be long term struggles.
The common denominator to suffering is that everyone’s life is disrupted at times (1 Peter 5:9). Because mankind was created to live forever in a perfect setting with God (the Garden of Eden), brokenness stirs our souls because we long for restoration. All of the creation knows this to be true (Romans 8:18–25). One day, God will restore all things…this is our hope and belief (2 Corinthians 13:9–11; 1 Peter 5:10; Revelation 21, 22).
Peter wrote his first letter (1 Peter) to a group of people who had their lives disrupted through persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ. They were forced out of their hometowns and scattered throughout several foreign regions. They were aliens with new cultures, customs, and forced to develop new friends, new vocations, and businesses. They likely left in a hurry with only what they could carry on the backs of animals as well as their backs. Their lives were severely disrupted. In part, Peter wanted his audience to understand some purposes in their suffering. While most people will not face the same sort of disruption as these first-century people did, all disruptions cause stress. When our “normal” changes, our anxiety rises. The uncertainty of the future causes us unrest. What can be learned from Peter’s letter when we face disruptions in our lives?
Peter himself knew of disruptions in his life. One day he was a fisherman, that was what he grew up knowing. Jesus noticed him and beckoned Peter to follow Him (Luke 5:1–11). Peter left everything; his family and the family business, his wife, his home…his world was disrupted forever! Peter’s life was also disrupted theologically, practically, relationally, and financially. As he learned to follow Jesus, change became constant.
From miracles of healing (Mark 5:1-20) to miracles of hearing (Matthew 17:5–6) to witnessing resurrections (John 11:43–44), Peter was a changed man living a world that was about to change even more. Just as Peter was getting used to his new normal in following Jesus, Jesus was yanked from him, crucified and buried. His level of confusion by these disruptions must have been enormous. When Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to Peter (John 21:7), he would never look back. His life was permanently disrupted.
Peter’s first piece of comfort to those he was writing, was to remind them that they were chosen by the Father. He prayed for them to have grace and peace in the fullest measure (1 Peter 1:2). Amid their disrupted lives, Peter speaks the gospel to them. They had already believed the gospel which is that Jesus is God, that He died for their sins and that He rose again – they had already been born again to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).
Though their lives had been disrupted their hope was living. Living hope is active and life-changing for followers of Christ because Jesus has been resurrected from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:30–32). A living, active, effective hope is always helpful when our lives are disrupted. Reminding others and being reminded of the gospel of Jesus is good medicine for the soul. It gives us purpose and a direction to move when things are unsettling. We should always remember the gospel and tell it to other believers and not-yet-believers. It keeps our mind where it is best served, focused on Jesus.
Embracing this living hope, especially while suffering from disrupted lives, we can choose to live differently. We can choose to be different enough to make a difference. When disrupted people embrace the changes around them with their minds set on the living hope brought about because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can expect Him to reward us!
God did not determine for our lives to be disrupted. When He created the world, He proclaimed His work to be very good (Genesis 1:31). It is sin that has caused disruptions, decay, and death in the world. However, when followers of Jesus live out their living hope during disruptions, an inheritance is promised (1 Peter 1:4).
Living out our hope with our minds set of Christ earns us a stunning inheritance. Our inheritance is “imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away” (1 Peter 1:4). Living out our hope in faith will bring us rewards (Hebrews 11:6). The inheritance spoken of by Peter is “…reserved in heaven for you”. Our inheritance is reserved or already secured by God. This inheritance is protected by the power of God through faith (1 Peter 1:5). This faith is God’s faithfulness, not our faith. If our inheritance is dependent on our faith, it is not so secure. We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). God is the faithful one who keeps us safe (John 10:27–30). We can have a living hope while enduring disrupted lives because of Christ’s truth, power, and promises. As we live in this way, we can be sure that we are protected by the power of God.
The measure of our inheritance will be decided by Jesus when each of us stands before Him at His judgment seat (Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:10–15; 2 Corinthians 5:10). This judgment of Christ on His followers is not about determining their eternal destination. Having eternal life is determined by a belief in Jesus (John 3:14–17; 5:24; Acts 16:31). The judgment is regarding how we have lived out our living hope while sojourning on earth. This is why the Apostle John encourages his audience to “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).