Summary: Godly suffering is the key to a joyful Christian life.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing were happening to you. Rather rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for Christ’s sake you are blessed, for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. Though they speak evil of Him, He is glorified through you. None of you should suffer as a murderer, thief, evildoer, or busybody in other men’s affairs. 16 Yet if any suffer as a Christian, he should not be ashamed--instead, he should praise and give glory to God . For the time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if judgment begins with us, what will happen to those that do not obey the gospel of God? If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what shall become of the ungodly and the sinner appear? Therefore those that suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator, and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:12-19, NKJV & NIV)
Suffering was not present in God’s original plan for the world. Genesis 1:31 says, "And God saw everything that He had made, and it was very good."
Suffering came into the world through the sin of Adam and Eve. After the sin of Adam and Eve was exposed, God pronounced judgment: "To the woman he said, ’... in sorrow you shalt bring forth children’... And to Adam he said, Because you listened to ... your wife, and ate of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: the ground is cursed for your sake; in sorrow you will eat [of] it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you ..." (Gen. 3:16-19).
The suffering of Adam and Eve was a fitting sentence for their crime against God. God always punishes wickedness by returning it on the heads of the wicked. Adam listened to his wife rather than submitting to God’s express command -- so now the ground refuses to submit to him. Eve caused her heavenly Father extreme grief--so now her own children grieve her in childbirth. She ate the fruit out of pure selfish desire, so now her children are born selfish and demanding.
The guilty suffer when the trouble they intended to wreak on the innocent falls on their own head. There are many examples of this in the Bible, including Pharoah, Judas, etc. However, the righteous also suffer, and this is the suffering that we will consider now.
Because of sin, obedience to God’s commands now intrinsically involves suffering. Originally, God’s commands to Adam and Eve to "Subdue the earth" and "Be fruitful and multiply" were blessed and joyful responsibilities. After sin, Adam and Eve still wanted to do these things, because God had built the desire into their basic natures. However, what once was a blessed responsibility became tedious and burdensome because nature has been corrupted.
Paul expresses a parallel truth when he speaks of his heart’s desire to obey the law of God and his inability to do so because of the fallenness of his nature. (Romans 7:14-23).