This past Sunday, we stepped into some deep water as we engaged the topic of Sovereign Suffering. We looked at two different texts, 1 Peter 4 and Psalm 10 in helping us to see the biblical perspective on suffering and a biblical response to suffering.
Starting in 1 Peter 4 we saw A Biblical Perspective on Suffering…
Accepts the Reality of Suffering: 1 Peter 4:1-6
Peter makes it clear that as followers of Jesus, we will encounter suffering, pain and misery in our lives. It’s important that we think rightly about this and understand the costs of following Jesus so that when it happens, we aren’t thrown off or confused about our situation or God. Have you accepted the reality of suffering as a part of life in a fallen world?
Seeks to Live Righteously in Spite of our Suffering: 1 Peter 4:7-11
What Peter then moves to seems a little surprising given the context. He exhorts the church to live righteously. What is important for us to see here is that suffering does not function as an excuse to abandon God’s call to live a particular way. Instead, we are to continue being people who are self-controlled and sober-minded. We are to display earnest love and show hospitality. Then he tells us that even in the context of suffering, we are to serve one another. Will you seek to live righteously in spite of your suffering or difficulty?
Sees Suffering as a Means of God’s Glory: 1 Peter 4:12-19
Peter then helps his readers to see the redemptive aspect within suffering. When we suffer, we share with Jesus in that suffering. It leads us into closer and sweeter relationship with God in the midst of that. Spurgeon said it well when he said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me upon the Rock of Ages.” You may not be able to see it right now, but can you hold on to the fact that God has a divine purpose that He is accomplishing in the midst of your suffering and struggle?
It’s imperative that we are able to see with biblical clarity the role and purpose that suffering has in our lives, and that we are aware that it will happen.
Then in Psalm 10, we saw A Biblical Response to Suffering…
In thinking through a response, it’s important that we understand the concept of lament. Lament is a form of prayer where we express our sorrow, grief, angst or disappointment to God. It’s meant to move us from the place of lament; to a place of worship to God.
Works the Process from Lament to Worship: Psalm 10:1-18
In working the process, we saw four distinct aspects that we see in many laments throughout the Scriptures.
Choose to Face God: Psalm 10:1
It’s crucial that we start in this place. The Psalmist sees what is going on around him, and he chooses to come to God with his hurt, frustration and disappointment. We must be people who are willing to first face God.
Express an Honest Complaint: Psalm 10:2-11
He then expresses an honest complaint. I’d encourage you to read this text again. I’m guessing it’s rare, if ever, that we have spoken to God like this. Yet my encouragement to you is that God already knows what’s bothering you, you might as well be honest with Him about it.
Ask God to Act: Psalm 10:12-15
The Psalmist isn’t there to simply vent and move on. But now, he moves to a place of asking God to act. Specifically, he wants God to act in line with His character. For many of us, this is the place that we start with lament. We want God to act and change our situation. Yet it’s quite possible that you could ask God to act, but haven’t chosen to really face God or expressed yourself honestly. That’s why the process is so important. Don’t make the mistake of running right to this place.
Trust God’s Character: Psalm 10:16-18
Finally, we’re to trust God’s character. If you read the last three verses of the Psalm it feels entirely different than the rest of it. I don’t believe the circumstances have changed, I believe the Psalmist has changed. His change is rooted in God’s character, who he is trusting in. This is the goal of lament, that we would end up in a place where we can trust God’s character!
As you encounter and engage suffering in your life, by God’s grace, let’s have a biblical perspective about it, and then have a biblical response to it.