By Paul David Tripp
Let me cut to the chase here. The biblical answer is yes, your suffering has a purpose.
No other answer does justice to what the Bible says about who God is and how our world is ordered. Yes, at street level you may experience chaos and confusion, and, no, God won’t make the details of his purposes known to you, but there’s tremendous comfort in the definitive answer of Scripture to the question every sufferer asks.
Maybe it seems more comforting to be able to separate God from your hardship and the pain of it, but there’s no real peace of heart to be found that way. Perhaps you’re tempted to tell yourself that the cause of your suffering is merely the normal breakdown of the natural laws of the universe and God has nothing to do with it.
But would it actually give you peace to know that God, with all his power, stands idly by as his broken creation brings devastation into your life?
Would it be comforting to think that there is no one to cry out to for help because there’s no person in charge of what you’re facing? Or would you find comfort in telling yourself that all the bad things in life come from Satan’s hands?
Would it be comforting to believe that he has the power to interrupt God’s good plan for you? Would it give you hope to think that the person in charge of your suffering has no interest in hearing your cries for help but rather finds delight in your travail?
It really is hard to grasp, but real hope and comfort are found only in those words spoken by Nebuchadnezzar after he had been humbled by God:
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,
For his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
Even Nebuchadnezzar’s expansive words don’t fully express the glory of God and the extent of his power and authority. Scripture makes very clear that God is in absolute control of the world that he created and the lives of the people he has placed in it.
We don’t live under the dictates of impersonal scientific forces. We don’t live under the sovereign control of the forces of evil. We live in a world that’s been terribly broken by sin but still sits under the power and authority of the One who created it.
You may not see his hand, and it may be very hard to accept that what you’ve had to endure has come under God’s watch, but Scripture is clear about the nature and extent of his rule. The fact that God is in control tells us that there’s divine reason and purpose to all we face.
You may say, “But, Paul, where is the comfort in this?” First, even though we endure things that don’t seem to be good, there is comfort in knowing that the One in charge of all that happens is holy, righteous, good, wise, and loving in every way. He is the ultimate definition of all these attributes.
He is also tender, patient, and kind. God is never malevolent, unjust, uncaring, duplicitous, or devious. He’s after the ultimate good for his creation, and for us who bear his image, he’s moving creation to the moment when he will finally make all things new.
If God had nothing whatsoever to do with what we’re facing, he would have little ability to come to our aid. Because God is intimately involved with everything we face, he is also preeminently able to offer just the kind of help we all need in our moment of hardship.
But there’s another thing to think about here. When God’s children are suffering, they tend to cling to his promises more tightly. As God’s children, we pin our security to the hope that God will actually do for us what his promises tell us he’ll do.
We hold onto this hope, even though we’re unable to see his hand or figure out how he’ll break through our hardship to deliver anything good. It’s important to understand, as we are holding tightly to God’s promises, that our hope depends entirely on his sovereign rule.
A person has the ability to ensure he can do what he’s promised only in situations he controls. When my children were home I could make good on my promises to them, because I was in charge of the location where those promises needed to be delivered. In the same way, the reliability of God’s promises to us is dependent on his rule over the situations where they’re needed.
The One in control has incalculable power and unobstructed authority, and he is the definition of love, which is very good news to his suffering children.
PAUL DAVID TRIPP (@PaulTripp) is a pastor, author, and conference speaker. Content taken from Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul David Tripp, ©2018. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.