1. What is the depth of suffering in our world?
Suffering is the result of sin entering the world and corrupting God’s creation. In all suffering, man is sinful, satan is active, God is sovereign. Biblical Suffering, however, is not the same as consequences from personal sin. (1 Peter 2:20; 1 Peter 4:15-19)
Evil and suffering bring out legitimate questions: “Why does God allow natural disasters, murder, disease” etc. Or even more personal questions like “why did my spouse leave me? Why can’t I have kids?” Etc.
In an attempt to protect God’s love and goodness when a lot of people deal with evil and suffering in the world, we often attempt to strip God of His sovereignty. In an attempt to bring hope to dark situations, we actually bring hopelessness. Christians too often make statements like: “God’s hands are tied.. God didn’t allow this to happen.. Satan did that not God Satan is the god of this world.. God had nothing to do with that.. etc.”
There is no hope in that God. That is not a sovereign God. There isn’t a single molecule in the entire universe that is outside of God’s control. There isn’t a single event that can happen apart from His total jurisdiction and consent. We do not strip God’s goodness from Him when we acknowledge that He is in control of evil – not if you have a biblical view of God and suffering – but you do attempt to strip God from His glory, and His very nature as God, when you act like He has nothing to do with the evil and suffering of this world.
“If God is not fully sovereign in your suffering, then you cannot trust that he is fully in control of your healing and recovery.” Cameron Cole
2. What does the Bible say about the Sovereignty of God and Suffering?
God is sovereign over man’s
(Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 20:24; Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 5:23; 2 Chronicles 18:33-34; Numbers 35:9-10; Exodus 21:12-13)
God is sovereign over man’s good
(Philippians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 8:16; Acts 16:14; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Ezra 1:1; Genesis 20:3-6)
God is sovereign over people’s wicked
(Proverbs 16:4; Deuteronomy 2:30; Ezekiel 32:32; Acts 4:28; Genesis 45:7-8; 1 Samuel 2:25; 2 Chronicles 25:20; Judges 14:3-4; Exodus 14:17; Psalm 105:25; Joshua 11:20; Isaiah 10:5-7, 15)
God is sovereign over people’s response
to the gospel and rejection of the gospel
(Acts 16:14; 2 Corinthians 4:6; John 3:27; John 6:44; Romans 9:11-13; Matthew 16:17; John 10:26; Romans 9:15-24; John 12:40; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11; John 12:39-40)
God is sovereign over satan
(Luke 22:31; Job 2:6Matthew 4:10-11 – compare 1 Chronicles 21:1 with 2 Samuel 24:1 or 2 Corinthians 4:4 with John 12:39-40)
God is sovereign over demons
(Matthew 8:31-32; 1 Kings 22:22-23; 1 Samuel 16:14; Mark 1:23-27)
God is sovereign over plants and
(Matthew 10:29; Numbers 22:28; 2 Kings 17:25; 1 Kings 17:2-4; Jonah 1:17; Jonah 2:10; Jonah 4:6-7; Leviticus 14:34-35; 2 Samuel 24:15; Exodus 8:1-2, 21, 24; Exodus 10:13)
God is sovereign over nature
(Psalm 147:15-18; Psalm 148:8; Amos 4:7-10; Jonah 1:4; Genesis 6:17; Genesis 19:24; Mark 4:37-41; Exodus 9:23; Exodus 14:21, 27; Numbers 16:28-33)
God is sovereign over man-made machinery, tools, and technology (Exodus 14:25; 2 Kings 6:5-6; Proverbs 16:33; Daniel 3:27-28)
God is sovereign over bodily
(Psalm 103:2-3; Mark 1:32-34; Exodus 4:11; 2 Kings 15:5; Psalm 38:3; Deuteronomy 28:27, 35, 58-59; Exodus 15:26)
God is sovereign over psychological and
(Psalm 30:11-12; Lamentations 3:32; Psalm 6:3-4; Psalm 13:1-3; Deuteronomy 28:28, 34; Leviticus 26:36; 1 Samuel 16:14l Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:16, 31-34; 2 Corinthians 12:7)
God is sovereign over evil
(Amos 3:6; Lamentations 3:37-38; Isaiah 45:7; Proverbs 16:4; 1 Samuel 2:6-7; Isaiah 46:9-10; Daniel 2:20-21; Daniel 4:17, 34-35; Psalm 2:2-4)
“Suffering is used by God to burst our bubble of self-sovereignty. What suffering really reveals is not that God isn’t in control, but that we aren’t. And that is what offends and angers us. Suffering reveals we are not in control. It causes us to scan our lives and face the fact that we control very little. However, this too is one of suffering’s greatest blessings. Helplessness is the door to hope.” Paul Tripp
God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Our greatest danger isn’t our weaknesses or our lack of control, our greatest danger is the delusion that we are big and strong and in control. Don’t let the confusion and questions of suffering redefine what you know to be true about God, rather let it redefine what you falsely believe about yourself. Experience is not a reliable guide. God’s Word is. This is why the Psalmist says, “it is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”
3. Why did God choose to create a world with evil and suffering?
Look at the life of Job and Joseph. Man was sinful, satan was active, and God was using both the evil and the suffering to accomplish His purposes.
The Bible teaches that God does everything for the sake of His glory. He created everyone for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), His glory He will not give to another (Isaiah 48:11), From him, through him, and to him are all things, to Him be the glory (romans 11:36). In Ephesians 1:3-14 it says before the foundation of the world, He chose and adopted a people for Himself to the praise of His glorious grace (which he repeats 3 times). In Romans 9:22-23 “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy,which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” God is a God-centered God who does all things for the sake of His glory.
There are glories to be seen, there is grace to be revealed, there is mercy to be tasted that would not be available if it were not for suffering and evil. All suffering and evil in the world today points to God’s glory.
“The pain and suffering in God’s world play a necessary role in bringing about greater goods that could not be brought about except for the presence of that pain and suffering. The world would be worse off without that pain and suffering, and so God is justified in pursuing the good by those means.” Greg Welty
The epitome of the glory of God is revealed in the suffering Savior who by suffering himself overcomes our suffering. The cross glorifies God and exalts him in all of his attributes... we see the justice of God, the love, grace, and mercy of God, the wisdom of God, and the power of God. Even in Jesus death, man was sinful, satan was active, but God was sovereign. (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:27-28; John 10:18)
Suffering was in the heart of God before the creation of the world. It was His plan that Jesus would be slain (slaughtered, suffer) in order to reveal the glories of His grace. This was the goal in eternity past and it will be the song in eternity future. (Revelations 13:8; Revelation 5:9-14). This is the moment, the cross, for which everything in the universe had been planned. This is the ultimate purpose of evil and suffering. There is no greater display of glory and grace than the suffering Savior at the cross.
This is the good that has come from Jesus suffering
He absorbed God’s wrath on our behalf
He purchased our forgiveness
He provided us with perfect righteousness
He defeated death
He disarmed satan
He purchased final healing for all His people
He will bring us finally to God
Choose some of the verses above to memorize either individually, with another believer, or with your family.
Questions to ponder:
In what ways can you look back at your own experience with suffering and see how God was sovereign and used it to reveal His glory?
What are some ways your understanding of God’s sovereignty has changed as a result of this message?
How does God’s sovereignty in evil and suffering change the lens in which you look at evil and suffering in the world?
In what ways can we see the depths of God’s glory that would not be seen outside of evil and suffering?
How is the cross the ultimate answer to the question “why did God create a world with evil and suffering?”
One final thought that needs to be made clear. Though God, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen to create a world in which evil and suffering exists, and though He is totally sovereign over the evil and suffering, God in and of Himself is not evil, nor does He sin.