1 Peter 4:12-15; 5:6-11 (NRSV)
12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. 6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
8Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
Suffering is among us in this global pandemic. In many situations, the disease has caused physical suffering and claimed thousands of lives. In other cases, the disease has exacerbated suffering that already existed among us: racial inequality, socioeconomic disparities, rural-urban divide in access to healthcare, to name a few. To use 1 Peter’s words, it feels very much like a “fiery ordeal” as the world is consumed by suffering, in old and new forms. Let me clear: God has not caused this suffering to teach, admonish, punish, or harden one’s faith; there is nothing good or redemptive about our suffering. Suffering just is.
Yet, the goodness of God is known by us through a God who knows us and our suffering. In the cross of Christ Jesus, God demonstrates a passionate love for us that meets suffering head-on, revealing the extent of God’s heart for you: Cast your anxiety onto God, this letter urges us, because God cares for you. Because Christ is present in our suffering. Christ just is.
God of the cross, you take on our suffering. God of the resurrection, you bring us to life. Restore, support, strengthen, and establish us, from suffering to everlasting life with you. Amen.