Suffering is a universal—and very important—part of the human experience. Unpleasant experiences, pain, and discomfort are useful instructors as we grow from helpless children into healthy and functional adults. Thirst and hunger remind us to drink and eat. The discomfort of a burn teaches us to handle fire with caution or not to touch a hot iron. The scorn and ridicule of some, coupled with the praise and acceptance of others, help us to form our circles of friends and learn to socialize. Although we experience it in differing levels and measures, suffering is an experience that every human being will undergo during various seasons of life.
The great question of faith for Christians is “where is God in the midst of my suffering?” The author of 1 Peter was writing to a group of churches for whom suffering had a become a regular, perhaps daily experience…often in the form of persecution and brought about by the very fact that they had chosen to follow the way of Christ. 1 Peter’s “advice” is to embrace suffering rather than flee it; to identify with Christ’s suffering in the midst of our own suffering and thereby become a part of God’s great story of redemption in the world.
It’s a challenging word which at the same time points the way to our freedom, for the way out of our suffering, loss and hurt is to go in and through. No one can take away suffering without entering into it.