Sovereignty and Suffering
When dealing with the issue of God’s sovereignty in relation to human suffering we must begin by realizing that the character of God is not in need of our defense. God is perfectly good in all that He causes and permits, even when we do not understand. God does act with severity. However, even in the midst of His severity, He is still perfectly good. The Bible says, “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way” (Psalm 25:8). God’s goodness never changes. He will never cease from being perfectly good toward those who love Him. For this reason, the Bible encourages us to “taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed in the man who takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8). Some may ask, “If God is so good then why does He allow suffering to exist?”
Suffering exists because sin exists. Suffering is a part of this fallen world. Without the “Fall” there would be no suffering or death. God is not the cause of sin, suffering and death, but God did permit these things to come into our world. Suffering is not some random act of fate. The Bible from cover to cover is clear that God is sovereign over all, that is, nothing comes to pass, whether good or evil, apart from Him. He rules supremely over all of the “whys” of the universe, including suffering. The psalmist writes, “The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; He has put on strength as His belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting” (Psalm 93:1-2). Nothing is random or happens apart from God’s sovereign rule. He reigns exclusively, continually and powerfully. The Bible declares “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever” (Psalm 29:10).
God uses suffering for different purposes. For example, in the life of the unbeliever, God uses suffering as a warning of things to come. Therefore, for the nonbeliever, suffering is ultimately a call to repentance and faith. However, for the Christian, God uses suffering to drive us to God. You see, in the midst of suffering, we are made aware of our need for God. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Suffering drives the believer toward God and there we are assured of His love.
Ultimately, God uses suffering to display His glory. The Apostle Paul in Romans 11:36 writes, “For from Him and though Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever Amen.” This verse highlights the sovereign rule of God over all things. Therefore, the ultimate end of all things in creation is to glorify God. According to His own will, God ordains all things, including suffering, for His own glory. In dealing with a man born blind, Jesus said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). For this reason, Jesus, “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2). Since all things ultimately exist to display the greatness of God’s glory, suffering is an essential part of the universe.
How should we respond to suffering? Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). This is a call to faith. We must continually trust the compassion and power of God as displayed in Christ. We must “look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2). Cast all your worries and cares upon Him for He is perfectly sovereign and perfectly good.