1 Peter 3:17-22

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
1 Peter 3:17-2
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The question, ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ plagues us. It breeds doubt, steals joy, and keeps us awake at night. We understand that evil breeds suffering. We want to see liars, thieves, murderers, and terrorists held accountable for their crimes and sins. But we wrestle with God when innocent people suffer, or when people suffer for doing good.
 
Elisabeth Elliot, a missionary who returned to live among and serve the very tribe who killed her husband, writes about suffering: ‘We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive His poured-out life and, being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.’

Some of Peter’s readers faced suffering and persecution for their public professions of faith in Jesus through baptism; others must have feared the same. In his letter, Peter encourages them to persevere in doing this good, even in their suffering.

From global headlines to ancient stories, we have seen God’s redemptive work in people who have endured intense suffering for the gospel. As Peter writes, God carries Noah and his family safely through the floodwaters. God delivers Joseph out of slavery, Daniel out of the lion’s den, Jonah from the depths of the sea, Stephen through a stoning into glory, and His beloved Son from the cross to be seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Here in the midwestern suburbs, we may feel more removed from this suffering for the gospel, but we can still do good in our suffering. We can still share the gospel in our suffering.

When my mom was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, the news came out of nowhere, as cancer diagnoses always do, invasive and uninvited. It felt personal, a terrorist attack against my mom’s body. As she fought the disease, she reminded us often that to ‘live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21). She understood that her numbered days on earth had purpose in Christ and that her death would begin a life of unimaginable gain. At her last appointment, as her doctor struggled to find the words to tell her that nothing more could be done to treat her cancer, she patted his hand and told him not to worry about the outcome, that God was in control and her future was a win-win. She could have questioned his wisdom or lashed out in anger. But she didn’t. Even in her suffering, she trusted God’s goodness, shared her hope in Jesus, and treated those around her with kindness.
 
She could do this, and we all can do this, because even when we outwardly suffer, we have salvation and hope in Jesus Christ, who renews our spirits by His grace, day after day.
 
Questions for Reflection:
  1. Read 2 Corinthians 4. What hope do you find to encourage you in times of suffering?
  2. Take time to pray for Christians around the world who are suffering for doing good.
Rebecca Janni | Author

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