The Sweet Taste of Sovereign Suffering


devil-jesus-arm-wrestle

I absolutely REFUSE to believe the following:

  1. I worship and believe in a God that spends half his time saying “Oh crap, did that just happen?” (Romans 8:28)
  2. Satan is just the evil version of God that pretty much has the same power and authority as Him. (Job 1:7-12; Zechariah 3:2; Matthew 16:23)
  3. God merely REACTS to the suffering Satan causes, thus making Satan pre-eminent and initiator of all bad things. (Isaiah 45:7)
  4. Every creature and being in all of the universe has a free will of self-determination EXCEPT God. (Isaiah 55:8-11)

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately, is this topic of God’s presence in a world full of suffering. Let’s face it: life is pain. You’re either coming out it, going through it, or about to enter into it. So . . . where is God in all of this?

We don’t worship a God that looks at the suffering of the world and says “Wow, that’s bad, someone should do something about that.” Rather, we worship a God that enters into this suffering and undergoes it Himself in order that His Will may be accomplished of saving His people and ushering them into His Glory.

My decision to finally get these thoughts down on the blog was because of an interesting message I read in my personal study of Micah. You can find some more context in Micah 2:1-5, here I give the verses of significance.

they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.
Therefore thus says the LORD:
behold, against this family I am devising disaster,
from which you cannot remove your necks,
and you shall not walk haughtily,
for it will be a time of disaster.

The Hebrew word for “devising” can also mean “create,” “weave,” “fabricate.” The Hebrew word for “disaster” used here can also mean “evil.” So, this verse can reasonably read:

“Therefore thus says the LORD:
behold, against this family I am weaving together evil.”

If you want a more direct verse, look at Isaiah 45:6-7:

that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

In both these passages, why is God directly weaving together and creating calamity and disaster? In the first passage we see that the intended result of this time of “disaster” is that the Israelites would no longer “walk haughtily” – or in other words: Discipline and Sanctification of God’s people. In the second passage, we see that the LORD is doing these things so that everyone may know that there is no other God but Him, and that He is in control – or in other words: Revelation and Communication of God’s eternal Attributes and Being. How does it do that? Suffering and evil cause something deep inside of us to want to cry out “No!” because something inside of us just knows that it isn’t the way it is supposed to be. Suffering shows us how fallen the world is and how unlike it was originally created to be. So, from these passages we can conclude three primary reasons for suffering, as it is caused by God Himself:

  1. God’s Glory
  2. Our Holiness (God’s Glory in us)
  3. Further His Redemptive Plan (God’s Glory in History)

Where did I get that last one? The context of Isaiah 45 is that this is the passage where Isaiah is prophesying about (and to) the ruler that would free the Israelites from the Babylonian captivity 500 years (I think) later! He calls him by name and country: Cyrus, king of Persia. The opening lines of Chapter 45 are “Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus.” He refers to a pagan king who never believed in God (as far as we know) and calls him “his anointed”! Cyrus is anointed because he was chosen by God to free the people and so God says in this passage that he is opening every door and using everything to bring Cyrus to this point to display His Glory in the world, because God will use whatever it takes to bring about the redemption of His Creation, a pagan unbelieving King, light, darkness, or calamity.

Also take note that in all those purposes, God’s Glory is the key to it all. God’s Glory is at the center through every pain, every atrocity, and every evil perpetrated in the world. How does this help us? Well, it can’t – naturally. It really only helps some of us. Those whose very nature has been changed so that it delights in the Glory of God more than the glory of themselves. The natural man cares more about himself than the Glory of God. That is what conversion is. Heaven is an eternal revelation of the infinite Glory of God, being poured into the finite beings. Heaven is not eternal just because that’s how long it is – no, Heaven is eternal because it will take that long to exhaust the storehouses of God’s Glory for us to experience. The problem is thus: when people are born, they care about and enjoy every OTHER thing but the Glory of God. So, conversion is (and must be) the process of changing someone’s very nature so that they now delight in the Glory of God! It is to prepare us for Heaven. What does this have to do with suffering?

Well, two things:

First and foremost, the complete canon of Scripture testifies to the fact that (a) God does ALL things with His Glory foremost in His mind (even love us), (b) He is the one who actively causes suffering, tribulation, and pain in the world, therefore (c) He does it all for His Glory, which the converted soul now delights in, thus the Christian can delight in suffering, trusting that it is revealing God’s Glory in Him/Herself, the World, and History.

[UPDATE TO THIS POST: I should probably give an operational definition to the phrase “Glory of God.” It’s a nice concept, but what does it mean? The best way I have found to define it is thus: The “Glory of God” is the external manifestations of the manifold perfections of God. If that is your passion in this world, then you are converted.]

The second reason this helps the Christian I will discuss at length in my next post, but I assure you, it is Glorious (no pun intended).

I know this is very rough and hard to follow and my case isn’t made very fully. I just knew this was going to be long enough, so I had to try and compact somethings. Really, if anyone wants more Scripture on this, just ask. There is PLENTY to go around. Also feel free to leave a question if you see some philosophical, logical, or exegetical holes in my thinking. I’m sure there is a lot. Please let me know.

I appreciate everyone that reads this blog, and love you so dearly. Until next time.

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2 thoughts on “The Sweet Taste of Sovereign Suffering

  1. Pingback: Creation: a suffering world through a suffering Lord | Lent {4} | the long way home

  2. Pingback: Some Hopefully Not-Crazy Musings on Calvinism & Predestination | Prodigal Paul | the long way home

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