When we have bad things happening to us—like heart disease, cancer, loss of a job, death of a child or spouse—people often say, "Why did God let this happen to me?" In the midst of suffering the questions are only natural.
Yet utterly unnatural is what we hear in 1 Peter as Jesus' words about suffering re addressed to a suffering people. Jesus is the one who doesn't engage in philosophical arguments or platitudes. In Peter we are instead given to see a picture of a suffering God—a suffering Jesus. In his suffering all the walls go down at last. All the pious pitches of religious hucksters preaching another quick fix gospel disintegrate as God comes up against us in our suffering. It is the place where God meets, holds us and frees us. When Lupita Nyong'o accepted the best supporting actress Oscar for playing Patsey, a slave girl in the movie 12 Years a Slave, she said, "It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's." God's promise is that God, as our shepherd, walks with us, down and dirty. Peter lets us know that God knows pain and suffering better than us.
Suffering is the place where we can also recognize each other as pilgrims together in need of God's saving power, grace, and healing. As we hear in Peter, "By his wounds we are healed."
Dear Lord, walk with us today in all we face, the hard times as well as the joyous. Like a shepherd, hold us so close to your heart that we can hear and feel your heart beat. Amen.
1 Peter 2:19-25 (NRSV)
19 For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.
20 If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval.
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."
23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.
24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.