I have always been told that the Christian faith is countercultural. Apparently that was in fact true in the early days of the faith. Believers were often excommunicated for refusing to revere the patron god of their family trade. In times of severe persecution they chose to die at the stake rather than to deny their Lord. Peter is certainly expressing a countercultural point of view when he writes, “It is better . . . to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (3:17). That is certainly not the contemporary wisdom that says, “Suffering may be inevitable but it is never desirable.”
What puts the issue in another light for the believer is the clause I omitted from the above citation – “If it is God’s will.” Scripture teaches the beneficial role of suffering in life, specifically when God has willed it (cf. Job.) It isn’t all that important whether the suffering comes as the result of doing good or doing evil.
This brings up the question of why God does what he does. Why does he sometimes will what we simply do not want? Why doesn’t he tell us why? So we sit and grumble wondering why, or surrender in silence. I’ve got a suggestion: Why not have it out with him! He taught us to pray “Abba, Father,” so certainly as a father he’ll help us, if possible, to understand. What I’m suggesting is that we go to him as a child, one who genuinely wants to know. Take advantage of the intimacy he offers.
Psychology speaks of “levels of intimacy.” A relationship may be one of five different levels, all the way up from what you might expect in a weather report, to a closeness in which we discuss our thoughts and feelings about each another. Shouldn’t prayer be a level 5 experience? Are we not privileged to talk to God as Father? Won’t he understand? If the prophet Habakkuk can confront him with the challenge, “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” why would we think it wrong to adopt a similar approach? I’m not saying he would provide a complete answer, but at least we’d have the satisfaction of intimacy. Tell it like it is, say what you really mean, do your best to get an answer. He may respond by showing us that problems are intended for our good. So be it! In such a case, join with Job and declare, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” At least we’ve talked it over, intimately.