St. Peter (1 Peter 4:19) uses this expression, “those who suffer according to the will of God,” and at first glance it seems to mean that God wills some the suffering we experience and some suffering God does not will. Read this way, Peter seems to leave us with the impossible task of discerning whether or not a particular cause or experience of suffering is God’s will or (even worse) not God’s will yet we are enduring it anyway–perhaps because God “let” it happen even though it is not his “will.” You can see the sort of futile games we begin to play with our words.
I’d like to suggest that suffering according to God’s will is not a reference to certain kinds or experiences of suffering (and not others), but rather a reference to how we suffer. Those who suffer according to the will of God “commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful creator.” Suffering is the reality of our death-soaked world. And yet in accepting death by entering into death with Christ through baptism, we have a glimpse, a deposit, an anchor of hope, a sure promise that death, and thus suffering, is not the end. Our faithful Creator has made a way through suffering and death to resurrection and abundant life, a life that we have already begun to taste. Committed to our faithful Creator, Christians then suffer “according to the will of God” by doing good, even in the midst of the “fiery trials” that come upon them.