The problem evil and suffering at times seems like the theological Kryptonite of our faith. As an undergraduate English major put it, "I just don't believe the God of Christianity exists. God allows terrible suffering in the world. So he might be either all-powerful but not good enough to end evil and suffering, or else he might be all-good but not all powerful enough to end evil and suffering. Either way the all-good, all-powerful God of the Bible couldn't exist."
For the Christian, the problem of suffering is precisely because we believe in the God who is both loving and almighty. But when suffering comes, it is more often than not inexplicable to us. It was Job's problem. Job's friends argued that God was just, so his overwhelming suffering must be because of some overwhelming sin. But Job stood by his integrity; he didn't deserve such suffering.
We wrestle with the same issues, and while much remains mysterious to us as it did to Job, we are not completely in the dark about our suffering. We get a glimpse of that in our passage today from I Peter.
Read I Peter 1:1-9 and use the questions given below to help you meditate on this text.
- Peter writes, "In this you rejoice" (v. 6). In what do we rejoice? List all that you can find in verses 1-5.
- What does verse 6 tell us about the context in which they were rejoicing? What was going on in the readers' lives and what does Peter say about that in verse 6? (cf. 1:14-17 and 2:11; 2:12, 18-20; 3:1, 13-17; 4:3-5, 12-19; 5:8-9). What additional trials do we face?
- What is our natural response to suffering trials of various kinds?
- What reason does Peter give for our suffering? (v.7)
- How do trials prove the genuineness of our faith and how do they refine our faith? How have you seen this in the lives of other or in yourself?
- Consider Romans 5:3-5; II Corinthians 12:7-10; Hebrews 12:1-11; James 1:2-4. What do these verses add to your understanding of what the Lord want us to know about suffering?
- When will the genuineness and purity of our faith be revealed? Why is that important to know?
- What is the point of verse 8 and how does that relate to suffering? How is verse 8 even a possibility? (Hint: verses 2, 3). Do you have joy "inexpressible and filled with glory"?
- According to verse 9 what is the reason for our joy, and what does that mean?
- Put it all together (verses 1-9): What did you learn about suffering and joy? How do you live with joy in the midst of trials?
"Suffering is meant not only to burn out the dross, but to burn in the promises"
- C.H. Spurgeon
See you Sunday!
 Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (Dutton, New York, 2008) p. 22.