Peter’s first epistle gives us three reasons explaining why we must go through suffering in this world. Suffering accomplishes many things for us: It builds our faith, prepares us for future tasks, allows us to be a positive Christian testimony, gives us the credibility to help others experiencing trials, and so forth. But what I want to discuss here is more foundational. Why does suffering exist in this world? Here are the three reasons for suffering found in 1 Peter:
We live in a sin-cursed world. When Adam rebelled against God way back in the garden of Eden, everything changed. Not only was every human infected with a new sin nature but the entire universe was altered. Romans 8 even says the earth itself is groaning for the redemption that Christ will one day bring. Natural disasters, death, and physical pain are not the way things are supposed to be. Sometimes we go through suffering because of the sin that affects the whole world (Romans 8:18–22; 5:12), because others sin against us (1 Peter 4:13; 3:18), or because Satan has received reign over this world (1 Peter 5:8).
Another reason we endure suffering is because of our identification with Christ. We have been chosen by God to be “separated” people living in a world of “darkness” (1 Peter 2:9). Furthermore, we are “strangers and pilgrims” while in this life so naturally we will not always fit in or be liked (1 Peter 4:11-12). Peter brings up the sufferings of Christ several times in this letter. He clearly states that if we want to follow Christ, then we will certainly experience some suffering. This comes by way of persecution (1 Peter 2:12; 3:14–16; 4:14, 16), chastening from God when we sin (Hebrews 12:6–7), and testing from God to make us better Christians (1 Peter 2:19–20; 5:6. and no, this does not contradict James 1!).
The third explanation Peter gives as to why we experience suffering is our own stupid self. Did you realize that 70% of physical ailments are self-induced? So for every 100 hospital rooms, 70 rooms are full of sick or hurt people who are enduring trials because they caused it! Peter specifically mentions suffering as a result of our own sinful deeds four times: 1 Peter 2:20; 3:10; 3:17; and 4:15.
Peter’s letter is not written in outline form like we are used to. Rather, he gives a spiral argument throughout his letter. These forms of suffering come up together at least four times throughout his letter.
Here is Peter’s suggested response to suffering is SUBMISSION (more on this in my next article). He does not write this letter to help us avoid or end suffering. He writes this letter to help us SUFFER WELL, in a God-honoring way.