In recent days, I have experienced a lot of suffering; not personal suffering per se. But, as a pastor, I have entered into the experience of other’s suffering. The first was a family that just lost their beloved daughter, sister, niece, aunt and friend. Her name was Amanda. When Amanda was 8 years old, she had a tragic swimming accident in which she drowned. Thankfully, she was revived, but her life would never be the same. For twenty-five years, Amanda was physically and mentally incapacitated, and she suffered greatly. At the funeral, her mother’s first words were, “Well, guys, here we are…at the end of the journey, and it has been a painful one.”
The second family whose pain I felt is a young couple who just lost their six-month-old baby boy. One morning, last week, the mother and father awoke to their baby not breathing. They did everything they could to help him, but it was too late. After rushing him to the hospital, he was gone.
Suffering is inevitable. And, as the old saying goes, you’re either just getting out of a trial, you’re in one right now or you soon will be. We all suffer in this fallen, broken, sin-filled world. It is unavoidable.
One of the problems with American Christianity is its shallow view of suffering. We’ve bought into the health and wealth gospel so passionately that we’re almost shocked when suffering comes knocking at our door. We’ve been told by countless false teachers that if God is for us then we will be healthy, wealthy and happy all of our days. But then reality hits and we’re not able to pick up the pieces nor connect the dots.
So, how do we make sense of suffering? More specifically, how can reconcile the fact that God is sovereign and we still suffer? Many people have solved this problem by saying that we suffer because 1) God is all powerful but not all loving or 2) God is all loving but not all powerful. God cannot be both all loving and all powerful; otherwise, we wouldn’t suffer. If He loves us, He would prevent and cure our pain.
But, as a Bible believing Christian, I reject both of those options. The Bible teaches us that God sovereign and omnipotent (Psalm 115:3). His power is unlimited and He has ordained the future by His infinite wisdom and authority (Isaiah 46:10). Secondly, the Bible teaches to us that God is love (1 John 4:7). God demonstrated the depths of His by sending His Son to be our crucified Savior (Romans 5:8). So, when I read Scripture, I see a God who has all power and loves me.
The question then is: how can I reconcile these truths with the fact that we suffer in this life? If God truly loves me, and has all power, then why doesn’t He stop suffering? The answer is found in one simple, yet profound, verse. Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This verse is totally comprehensive. Nothing is outside its scope. God is working everything—even suffering—for the good of those who love Him and have been called (i.e. Christians). Though I might not understand why little girls drown and suffer for two and half decades or why babies die only a few months old, I do know that everything in this world, even our tragedies, are working to accomplish God’s grand plan. Best of all, I, and every other believer, are a part of that plan and God is working everything for our good. I don’t know about you, but I can trust a God like that. I don’t have much hope in a god who doesn’t love me nor do I have any confidence in a god who’s impotent. But I have faith in a God who is making all things new and working all things for my good.
Thanks for reading!
Brandon Sutton is the Senior Pastor at Blue Ridge Christian Union Church. You can email him at Pastor2334@gmail.com