I Peter 3:17 "It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil."
Is it ever in God's will for us to suffer? This a mind blowing verse. I mean, the classic argument of many non-Christians, seen as the question that ends all arguments, is "If God is love then why is there suffering in the world?" Ask me anything but that question!!!
The truth of the matter is, a logical fallacy has been committed here. How does love equal no suffering? I would submit to you that without suffering there could be no true love! Think about that! Isn't love really shown in times of suffering? This is kind of besides the point, but a good question, even then it kind of answers the question.
Does God will suffering? Does a parent ever will suffering on their child? Yes and no. As a parent I want my child to live a happy, peaceful, joyful life, but I often think "they just need to go through a little suffering to really learn how to live a happy, peaceful, joyful life." I would never wish that my child lives a life of suffering but I do realize that suffering produces some great things and can be the means to an end.
Whoever said that suffering is evil? Does suffering have to be equated with evil? I guess that depends on how you define evil. For some, evil is anything thing that causes me pain and displeasure. For others, evil is anything that causes another person pain and displeasure. Some say evil is the absence of good. I would say evil is an action with the intent to harm behind it. Some suffering is evil because it was brought on by an obvious intent to harm. We call this malice, but there is much suffering in the world that isn't the product of malice. I would say this suffering should not be considered evil. In fact, I would say that this kind of suffering can bring about great good.
God does not will us to live lives of suffering. His ultimate goal for us is to be in a relationship with Him and eventually spend eternity with Him, but just like any good parent He knows that suffering can serve a purpose in our lives. In the passage above Paul says "It is better...to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." He adds "if it is God's will." I would rather my children do what is right and suffer then do what is wrong and suffer. There is something about doing what is right that even when you suffer you still feel a certain level of peace and joy because you did what needed to be done. You did the right thing, and I believe that in the end of the process where suffering is involved there will be a tremendous reward.
God is looking at the end result and understands that suffering can be a means to the end. The perfect example is Jesus sacrifice on the cross. Was it His will for Jesus to suffer? It was/is His will for mankind to be saved. Could He have saved mankind without suffering?
In John 13 we find this verse "Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love." He washed His disciples feet. What this verse doesn't mean is that the greatest act of love ever known is to wash someone's feet. It does mean that the greatest act of love is demonstrated through humility and humbleness. Nothing is as humbling or humiliating as moments of suffering, especially for what is right.
Could Jesus have saved mankind without suffering? The answer is no. God knows all and knows the perfect way to do everything. If there was a more perfect way to save mankind He would have done it. The very fact that He chose to allow Jesus to suffer shows us the positive side of suffering. Yes, suffering is in God's will for people. Suffering is not the end result He has in mind though. Suffering is a means to an end. We need to keep this in mind when we suffer, not the suffering that comes from doing something wrong, this is a consequence, but for suffering that comes from what we have done that is right. We may not be able to see it now, but God has a more perfect result that involves no more suffering in the end.
If God is all loving then why is there suffering? Wrong question! Could God show is love if there wasn't suffering? A much better question!