Is Suffering A Bad Thing?

1 Peter 4:15-16 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

The basic definition for the word suffering in English is “the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship”. Suffering is an inevitable part of life. Depending on a person’s viewpoint, you may find people clashing against each other regarding the value of suffering. It would probably be safe to say that most people tend to lean towards the idea that all suffering seems bad. While it is quite easy to get comfortable with this line of thought, I submit to you that God’s word will help us see that this is simply not the case. For the Christian, some suffering is good. Suffering can help fortify or strengthen us in various ways. In saying this, we need to be extremely careful that we are not promoting a false idea that we need to go out trying to stir up trouble. I can assure you; trouble will find its way into your life without your assistance.

I recently asked a couple of younger people this question, “Is suffering a bad thing?” and the response I got was encouraging. I was essentially given the same response. “It depends on the situation.” It also helps that these young people are Christians. The very fact that they are laying down a solid foundation in Christ causes them to see the bigger picture in life. Suffering in Christ is a blessing because it indicates that we are truly following Jesus and because we are following Jesus, we suffer because we are identified with Him.

In order to answer this question truthfully, then we need to establish some basic facts. As Peter instructs us to not suffer as a murderer, thief, evildoer, or troublesome meddler, what can we take away from this? Are the sufferings of a murderer justified or deserved? Yes, it is well deserved. Peter is establishing the fact that not all suffering is done in the name of Jesus. A murderer cannot make the claim that they are suffering for the name of Christ. A thief cannot say that his or her suffering is in the name of Jesus (Ephesians 4:28). An evildoer or troublesome meddler is not suffering in the name of Jesus. Nobody is saying that they are not suffering any sort of grief, pain, emotional trauma, etc. These kinds of people are absolutely suffering but it is not for the sake of Jesus. Peter is telling us the suffering as a Christian is nothing to be ashamed about and that because of our suffering, we should glorify God in these matters. This is not saying that we glorify the suffering. We glorify Him, God, in suffering.

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Peter is making a distinction that there are times when our suffering is according to God’s will and then there are times when it is not. Not all suffering is the will of God. The suffering of living in sin is not the will of God. God desires everyone to repent and turn back to Him. This instruct comes at the heels of Peter teaching previously that when Jesus was insulted, he did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats. He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). Peter concludes that we need to suffer in the same way. When we are doing the will of God and suffer for doing so, do not make it personal. Put your trust in God!

The Greek word for “entrust” or “commit” is paratithemi. Many scholars utilize the idea of leaving money on deposit with a trusted friend. Such trust was regarded as one of the most sacred things in life, and that friend was to honor to return the money fully intact. Jesus used the same word when He said “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” (Luke 23:46) So when we entrust our souls to Him, we are fully confident that we are in a safe place.

Hebrews 4:16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I believe some may not realize what the Hebrew writer is implicating here in this passage. We need to take these words seriously, but I want us to consider a couple of things about “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence”. We are told that we can do this now. Previously, this was not a possibility. Think back to the tabernacle system; did anything about that system indicate that people could approach the throne of God? The Levites were instructed to kill anyone who attempted to approach the presence of God (Numbers 1:51). How many people do you think tried to “confidently approach God” during those times? Consider Esther for a moment. She was a queen in the Persian Empire, and she could not approach her own husband with confidence. She knew that there was a possibility of her dying for going into the throne room (Esther 4:11). You may be thinking, “well preacher, that is all ancient history!” Is it? How many people can confidently approach the White House without having snipers on standby ready to kill anyone who dares to run into the White House.

But now we can have confidence because it is safe to approach in our condition. Having this confidence means that we can anticipate receiving favor as we approach. Jesus made this all possible and this is why we need to understand that our suffering is not bad. Instead of receiving judgment, we will receive mercy. Instead of receiving condemnation, we will receive grace. If you are suffering, then glorify God and approach His throne of grace to help in your time of need.

James 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

by Lee Elkins