“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” – 1 Peter 3:17-18
This passage is sitting heavily on me tonight. Here are some things it tells us:
1. God wills. That may be a simple sentence, but realize the profound implications of it. God wills that something be, or that it not be. God wills and it is, or it is not. When we “will” something, we mean by that, that we as humans “strongly desire” something, or even “take action that something be so”, but not God. God’s will is all encompassing, definitive, sovereign.
2. God wills suffering. Verse 17 says, “…if that should be God’s will…”, what is that? Suffering. A couple of things come out of this. First, realize that suffering is not out of God’s control. God has not been blind sided by it. Second, realize that God permits, yes, even wills that suffering be. But we must remind ourselves that this is neither in such a manner as to be the author of sin, nor an indifferent deity. Many would ask, if God is love, how could He allow suffering, but that understanding confuses love with comfort. Love is much deeper than the removal of pain, grief, and sorrow. Yes, that comes, but only in its proper place, on the other side of the tears.
3. God wills that we suffer for doing good. God does not only will suffering in a response to evil and sin. Sometimes, God permits suffering to come in response to good, even the greatest good of all. Verse 18 tells us that Christ suffered. The one who did not wrong, but only good suffered. And why did he suffer? That through His suffering He might deal with our sin, and bring righteousness to all of us who are unrighteous. Through suffering came salvation, peace, comfort, glory. God is not out to harm us, but instead, through suffering He wills to bring about greater good, greater glory. We just cannot always see it through our tears. But when every tear has been wiped away, we will find that we stand before a loving Lord who has suffered infinitely on our behalf, and has worked in us, through sufferings of our own, the greatest glory and joy.