Why is life so hard? Why is there so much suffering of all shapes and sizes? From the small and personal to the vast and global. Nobody is immune to suffering; suffering is part of the human experience. We can fight it but we can’t stop it. Everyone has to adopt a way of coping even if its just denial. How do you deal with suffering?
It’s often a question thrown at Christians – if there is a God why is there so much suffering? Perhaps that’s a question the pandemic has forced you to think about. Or that you’ve been asked, or are worried about answering. God doesn’t hide from that question. The Bible isn’t a fantasy story set in a world without suffering. And suffering isn’t the skeleton hidden in God’s cupboard. God answers that question but inviting us into his story.
He tells us of the good world he made and gifted humanity to enjoy in relationship with him and according to the manufacturers instructions. It was a world of joy and sustainability, of right relationships without suffering or pain or death. But that’s not the world we live in because humanity wanted to rule God’s creation our own way, throwing out the manufacturers instructions. We wanted God’s stuff but not God. And the consequences are horrific, death, sin, pain, bitterness, resentment, abuse, suffering all come flooding into the world, and all because of user error.
But God is gracious he’s not done. He doesn’t wipe the world clean and start again. Instead he does something all the more amazing. God enters into his broken creation in Jesus to redeem it. He suffers alongside us; he gives us a glimpse of the world we all long for in his miracles and his teaching and in the community he creates. And then he pays the price to reconcile us to God, as he bears our punishment for rejecting God, and rises again to prove that price is paid and that there is a new day coming. Jesus’s resurrection is a guarantee of a new life in a new creation free from the shackles of sin and suffering and pain and death.
And God invites us to enter into that story if we confess our rejection of him and repent and trust Jesus. The Bible provides a framework to help us understand the world we live in.
But that poses a question doesn’t it? Why do followers of Jesus still suffer? And if we’ve followed Jesus and find ourselves suffering how are we to think of it? Is it a sign of un-confessed sin, is it a sign that we’ve done something wrong and God has forsaken us? Have we misunderstood the kingdom we’ve become citizens of? Do disciples suffer? And if so how should we think of it?
Peters writes to churches scattered across the Roman Empire. Notice how he describes these believers, “exiles”(1). They are citizens of God’s kingdom who live now as exiles. Travellers and pilgrims. This world isn’t their home, this world isn’t all there is. And they’re exiles who are suffering, every chapter of this letter addresses the issue of suffering. And not just one type of suffering but all kinds of suffering. Peter writes to suffering churches so they know how to follow Jesus in their suffering.
This morning we’re going to look at the foundations he lays in 1v3-12. Maybe you’re suffering and you’ve got so many questions. Maybe you want to know better how to walk alongside those in our church family who are suffering. We all need to listen to these things so that we’re equipped for when we suffer as disciples.