Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Sovereignty of Suffering

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  ~Job 1:20,21

Do you see the sovereignty of God in suffering as clearly as Job?

When calamity strikes and suffering intrudes upon our lives, it seems pointless, arbitrary, or even random. We are filled with anguish and despair over thoughts of “what if...” and “I should have...” all the while forgetting about a sovereign God. Your pain and suffering, your calamity and tragedy is neither pointless nor random. When Job lost everything he had, including all ten of his children, he recognized the sovereignty of God in all of these things.

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.  ~Deuteronomy 32:39

God is in control, period. People today however, do not have that sort of appreciation for the sovereignty of God in all things. It is the modern message of “your best life now” and “God wants you to be healthy, wealthy and happy” that lead people to conclude that suffering can not be part of God’s plan for His people. Rather, Satan is often blamed as the sole source of our suffering. This is not to say Satan does not inflict us, but as we see in the case of Job, Satan can only do what God allows. I can assure you, God has absolute sovereign control over all things, including pain and suffering.

Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  ~Exodus 4:11

Who or what is behind all disease and disability? God says it is Him. That thought can be a hard pill to swallow, but to think otherwise calls into question God’s supreme authority over the universe. When tragedy and pain strike, people who do not recognize the sovereignty of God in suffering may question God’s goodness and reliability. When one supposes that it is God’s will that we always be healthy and wealthy and suddenly disease or poverty is knocking at the door, the temptation is to put God on trial and demand He give an account of Himself. Why then does a sovereign God allow suffering?

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.  ~James 5:10,11

James, speaking about patience and perseverance, uses the suffering of Job as an illustration. He relates to us that Job’s suffering was intended by the Lord. God has a reason for our suffering. Ultimately it is all for His glory and along the way faith is strengthened, disobedience is disciplined, saints are sanctified, and sin is rebuked. God, in His sovereignty, brings suffering into the lives of people so that good may come of it. Good stewards of suffering recognize the sovereignty of God in the very midst of it. After all, if we recognize the sovereignty of God in what is pleasant should we refuse to see the sovereignty of God in the suffering?

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  ~Job 2:6-10

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