Importantly, as we read Scripture, we find that God is not surprised by suffering and evil, nor has he lost control of his creation. Instead, everything is being worked out according to his providential purposes (e.g. Eph 1:11). In our deepest and darkest pain there are amazingly God-ordained purposes (cf. 2 Cor 4:17). Stunningly, these moments of pain aim at our good and God’s glory.
It’s one of the great worldview questions of history. What is wrong with the world? Why are things the way they are? This is a massive question and everyone tries to explain suffering in some way.
The Christian worldview takes its cue from God’s special revelation, the Bible. And Christians believe God has spoken to the issue of suffering within the pages of Holy Writ. Importantly, as we read Scripture, we find that God is not surprised by suffering and evil, nor has he lost control of his creation. Instead, everything is being worked out according to his providential purposes (e.g. Eph 1:11). In our deepest and darkest pain there are amazingly God-ordained purposes (cf. 2 Cor 4:17). Stunningly, these moments of pain aim at our good and God’s glory.
Here is what I hope you walk away with after reading this post: there are God-ordained reasons behind the sufferings we experience in this age.
Jesus’ Disciples and a Man Born Blind
Jesus and the disciples pass by a man who had been blind from birth in John 9. Seeing the blind man, the disciples ask if his blindness is the result of his sin or his parents (9:2). That is, perhaps the parents committed fraud, or lied, or stole something and the blindness of their child (i.e. the blind man) is God’s punishment. Or, perhaps the man himself, when he was younger, committed some specific sin and his blindness is God’s punishment for his crime. But can we draw those type of tight connections? Not really.
It is true that all the pain and suffering and sickness in this world is due to sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, the created order was subject to futility (Rom 8). So, in this sense, it is right to see the hardships of this world connected to sin. However, sometimes, pain is not the result of your sinful choice but is tied to God’s hidden purposes. This is where Jesus points us. He teaches the disciples that pain is purposeful. Note what Jesus says, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (9:3). Did you notice the purpose statement? When Jesus says, “but that,” he is using the language of purpose. This man is blind “that” (i.e. so that) “the works of God might be displayed…”
This is gold. The principle we walk away with, then, is that suffering is purposeful. All suffering and pain and hardship falls under the providential control of God. And he is aiming to do amazing things in it and through it for our good and his glory (cf. Rom 8:28; 2 Cor 4:17). The blindness of this man was not due to his sin, but God’s hidden plan to glorify his name through the suffering!
Now, what exactly God is doing in our individual lives and particular hardships, I may not be able to define. But, I stand here: in my deepest pains, God is working for my good and his glory. Thus, I can endure, I can press on in faith, trusting the Lord.
How Now Shall We Then Live
If suffering is not random, if it is providentially purposeful, then understanding this massive truth prepares us to respond to suffering in distinctly Christian ways. Let me offer seven ways we respond to the purposeful pain we experience in this world?