Suffering & The Sovereignty of God

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January 19, 2010 by Dwight Bernier

I’m reading a book called Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, which is a book with contributions from speakers at the conference with the same title at John Piper’s church a few years back. It is an excellent book with great theology and experience from those who have suffered much. These are people sharing how they found God as their only hope in the midst of unthinkable trials and giving their meditations and theology which was birthed in the midst of extreme hardship.

With images such as we are continually seeing about Haiti and the horrors taking place in that country, we would do well to have a good theology of suffering. It would be easy to question God during these times. It would be easy to wonder if God even hears us. But as one author puts it, ‘God does not know suffering only as one merely ascents to knowledge, rather God knows suffering by experience’ (paraphrase). We know that God understands suffering to a level that we can not comprehend because on the cross, Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, bore our sins and drank the cup of the wrath of God, to the glory of God and for our good.

John Piper argues in the chapter entitled, ‘The Purposes of God in Suffering’, that suffering ‘exists in the universe so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in Himself to overcome our suffering’ (p. 82). At the end of the chapter he calls us to consider the display of the glory of the grace of God in the achievements of Christ by His suffering because “EVERYTHING that Christ accomplished for us sinners He accomplished by suffering. Everything that we will ever enjoy will come to us because of suffering” (p. 87). Here are the seven considerations:

1 – Christ absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf – and He did it by suffering (Galatians 3.13)

2 – Christ bore our sins and purchased our forgiveness – and He did it by suffering (I Peter 2.24; Isaiah 53.5)

3 – Christ provided a perfect righteousness for us that becomes ours in Him – and He did it by suffering (Philippians 2.7-8)

4 – Christ defeated death – and He did it be suffering death (Hebrews 2.14-15; I Corinthians 15.55-57)

5 – He disarmed Satan – and He did it by suffering (Colossians 2.14-15)

6 – Christ purchased perfect final healing for all His people – and He did it by suffering (Isaiah 53.5; Revelation 7.17)

7 – Christ will bring us finally to God – and He will do it by His suffering (I Peter 3.18)

These are glorious truths. We are set free to enjoy Jesus in the midst of our suffering, and are called to go to our High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. May we enjoy the One who promises He will never leave us nor forsake us, even in the greatest hour or torment and deepest level of pain – He never bails.

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