Do you find it difficult to worship God when life is difficult? If yes, then you are not alone. When reading the Psalms we observe that at least one-third are songs of lament. They teach us an honest and raw worship of God when things are falling apart or when we experience suffering.
Peter’s letter is no different nor does he skirt around the subject of suffering, rather he has straight talk for those who are suffering. What we learn from Peter and the Psalms are how to worship God in suffering.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” – 1 Peter 4:12-19, ESV
God has a plan for suffering so don’t be surprised by it.
There are two scenarios of suffering we shouldn’t be surprised by: when we suffer because we sin or we suffer because we follow Jesus (vs.12, 17-19). Both types of suffering are meant to draw us near to God for either repentance or reliance. It is far better to suffer for following Jesus than for doing wrong. And suffering, especially for the gospels sake allows us to share in the suffering of Jesus and that worships God.
Peter knows what it is like to suffer for wrong and feel the shame of it. When Jesus was imprisoned he denied Jesus three times. Jesus restored Peter afterwards and from then on Peter joyful suffered for the sake of Christ.
God is most glorified when we rejoice while suffering.
Rejoicing seems like the opposite response while suffering. More often people become bitter against God or to complain against God. However, when we complain or become angry we miss out on God’s primary means of draws us to himself.
Our deepest worship of God occurs is when we rejoice in him in spite of pain, trust him in the trial, surrender in the suffering and love him when he seems distant or unclear. No matter how difficult the situation may appear God is still good and he is good to us. Suffering has it’s good purpose and therein is a reason to rejoice because God is trustworthy (vs.13-16, 19).
Peter says that when your life is difficult and people are making fun of you for being a Christian it is more important than ever to trust God. This includes trusting that he exists, loves you, will help you, is ultimately in control of your life, and in eternity will sort everything out and make it right. When suffering we can worship in three ways: through honest lament, a resilient hope in Jesus, and a stubborn trust in God.
Questions for Reflections:
- How are suffering and worship interrelated?
- When you can expect suffering how does it prepare you to suffer well? How did Peter fail in suffering when Jesus was imprisoned? How does shame play into suffering?
- Why does Peter tell his readers not to be surprised by suffering? What is the difference between suffering for good and suffering because of sin? How are the consequence of sin and following Jesus different?
- How can you rejoice in suffering? Why is rejoicing in God harder when life is tougher? What reasons do you have to rejoice in God in suffering? How has suffering drawn you to God?
- How do you see God a trustworthy and faithful? What does it look like to entrust your soul to God?