1 Peter 3:17
For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
1 Peter 3:13-14
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”
Theodicy is a theological study interested in why a good God exists where there is such despicable evil. In theodicy, we seek answers to the following questions and many more. Is God able to stop the evil that is currently ongoing in the world? (evil includes rape, murder, theft, injustice, unfairness, discrimination, torture, victimization, diseases like cancer, diabetes, etc.) If God is able to stop evil, why hasn’t He stopped the evil? Why would an all-powerful and good God allow evil to terrorize His creation? These and many others are the questions that theodicy is concerned about.
The question of suffering that we pose today is in the area of theodicy. Is suffering avoidable? No one likes to suffer. Nobody enjoys suffering. Even when we ourselves do not suffer, the suffering of others concerns and disturbs us. Deep within us is a fear of suffering and hope that one day there will be no suffering or its anticipation. Is suffering avoidable?
If we knew what to do to avoid suffering completely, we would do it. But as we look around us, we see everyone suffering. There are people who deserve suffering and they do suffer although sometimes they don’t. There people around us who seem so good and nice, they do not deserve any suffering, but they suffer. Those who in our assessment qualify for suffering and those who do not, all suffer. Innocent children suffer even before they can make choices or define sin. We are therefore left to wonder if we can avoid this consistent calamity of suffering. Is suffering avoidable?
The Bible tells us today that suffering is not avoidable. The Bible tells us that you can suffer for doing good and you can suffer for doing evil. Being good or evil does not prevent you from suffering. Siding with satan and promoting satanic interests will still expose you to suffering. Satan will not spare you because you chose his side. You will still suffer. Is suffering avoidable?
Being faithful to God does not guarantee a suffering-free life. Even in impeccable faithfulness, you will suffer. The best among us suffer. The people we look up to and admire for living right, also suffer. Job a righteous man according to none other than God also suffered, Job 1:8. Jesus who was God and man in equal measure, also suffered, 1 Peter 3:18. Is suffering avoidable?
Apostle Peter tells us that while we all suffer, the experience we go through while suffering is not the same. If you suffer for doing good, you are blessed. It is better to suffer for doing good. The suffering of those who are faithful to God is much better than that of those who do not believe in God. Suffering is not avoidable, but the experience you go through while suffering can be made better by your faithfulness to God.
A suffering believer has many reasons to remain hopeful. First, God has permitted the suffering and will not allow it to overwhelm him/her, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Secondly, God will turn this suffering into a blessing, Romans 8:28. Thirdly, God will make him/her a better person through this suffering, 1 Peter 1:6-7. Fourth, suffering may endure for some time but joy will surely come therefore we do not give up during suffering, Psalm 30:5. Finally, at the end of time, God will create a new heaven and a new earth where there shall never ever be suffering again, Revelation 21:1-4. A suffering believer remains hopeful amidst suffering. It is better to suffer as a believer!
Unbelievers suffer too. Unfortunately, their experience of suffering is different and terrible. Unbelievers are paranoid. They believe they are bewitched. They believe someone is planning their downfall. They are suspicious of what people are saying when they meet. They worry when they are not updated on the latest gossip and what others are saying about them. Since they have an appetite for such stories, lies are generated and fed to them to keep them happy. Unbelievers accuse people because of their suffering. Unbelievers accuse God because of their suffering. Unbelievers blame satan even for what they are responsible for. Unbelievers despair during suffering for they have no hope. It is better to suffer as a believer than suffer as an unbeliever!
Believers who suffer leave their issues in God’s care. Unbelievers who suffer resort to desperate attempts to alleviate their suffering. Believers who are made to suffer by people will let God revenge and they move on with life. Unbelievers who are made to suffer by people are stuck at the offense. They will keep remembering it and reminding others. Unbelievers will have restless days and nights as they plan revenge and worry about counter revenge. It is better to suffer as a believer than suffer as an unbeliever!
Suffering came into the world when we defied God and ate the forbidden fruit. Suffering will be expelled from this world when satan, his angels, and the sinful people who reject God, directly and indirectly, are burnt in hellfire. Suffering will not exist in the next heaven and earth that God has prepared for the believers. It is better to be a believer while suffering so that after this suffering we will never suffer again forever and ever, in Jesus’ name, Amen!