Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

Posted: September 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Why does God allow suffering? This is quite possibly the single most difficult question a Christian can ever ask, or be asked. Why would a loving God allow our friends and family, and especially children to endure such horrible diseases as cancer. What possible good can can from it?

At the age of nine, Victor was in the hospital alone. His birth family was unable to care for him. Meanwhile, Mike and Deb Watters were often on the same unit because of a similar cancer in their daughter. To make a spectacular story of grace short, they eventually adopted Victor, cared for him, led him to Jesus, and surrounded him with overflowing love as he died on September 7, 2011.

The following video was recently posted as wonderful testimony to this young man’s faith and God’s amazing grace.

One of the best resources I have ever seen on the subject of pain was a Desiring God conference called Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Five months after the conference, two of the speakers, John Piper and David Powlison, were diagnosed with prostate cancer. On the eve of his prostate surgery (Feb 13, 2006) John Piper wrote an article in reflection on his situation and in order to minister grace and truth to others.  David Powlison then added the reflections italicized below on the morning after receiving the news that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer (March 3, 2006).

Here is a short excerpt:

It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. Not that his first design for creation was a Garden of Eden with cancer. But the fall did not take God off guard. He was planning redemption before creation (2 Timothy 1:9). He saw it coming and permitted it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

Recognizing his designing hand does not make you stoic or dishonest or artificially buoyant. Instead, the reality of God’s design elicits and channels your honest outcry to your one true Savior. God’s design invites honest speech, rather than silencing us into resignation. Consider the honesty of the Psalms, of King Hezekiah (Isaiah 38), of Habakkuk 3. These people are bluntly, believingly honest because they know that God is God and set their hopes in him. Psalm 28 teaches you passionate, direct prayer to God. He must hear you. He will hear you. He will continue to work in you and your situation. This outcry comes from your sense of need for help (28:1-2). Then name your particular troubles to God (28:3-5). You are free to personalize with your own particulars. Often in life’s ‘various trials’ (James 1:2), what you face does not exactly map onto the particulars that David or Jesus faced—but the dynamic of faith is the same. Having cast your cares on him who cares for you, then voice your joy (28:6-7): the God-given peace that is beyond understanding. Finally, because faith always works out into love, your personal need and joy will branch out into loving concern for others (28:8-9). Illness can sharpen your awareness of how thoroughly God has already and always been at work in every detail of your life.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Co 4:16-18



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