On Suffering, Sovereignty, and Worldview


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On Suffering, Sovereignty, and Worldview

When God lays men upon their backs, then they look up to heaven. God’s
smiting His people is like the musician’s striking upon the violin, which makes it
put forth melodious sound. How much good comes to the saints by affliction! When
they are pounded they send forth their sweetest smell. Affliction is a bitter root,
but it bears sweet fruit.

Thomas Watson

An unbelieving world sees suffering and death as the poisonous arrow notched and ready to fly against the idea of a personal God who cares for His creation. Yet this very assertion betrays a worldview built on the premise that we are impersonal machines built from an impersonal universe, blind and indifferent to meaning and purpose in a world with no basis or justification for beauty, truth, morality, the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, or information. Unbelievers assume the Christian worldview in order to argue against it. Christians have a basis for these very things in the infinite and personal Sovereign God of the universe. As all ultimate authorities are self-authenticating, so is the Triune God.

To a worldview lacking in purpose or meaning, the idea of a Christian God among a sin rent world is unthinkable. But what of a world devoid of purpose and meaning? To what answer does the unbeliever flee to when the question of suffering is turned toward him? If there are no absolutes, no categories of “good and evil”, no meaning apart from the subjective, no overarching purpose in history, then what hope is there for humanity? Human beings with worth, diginity and purpose, who were made in the image of God, are then reduced to impersonal machines. The reductionism of humanity is complete.

Unlike the indifferent and impersonal universe, God is very personal, presently reigning over all creation, ordaining all that comes to pass. He is working in history, gathering His people to Himself, pruning the dead branches of His beloved and burning the dross. In the deeds of the wicked He brings forth His will. Not one aspect of creation is beyond His reach, beyond His sovereign hand. He is the composer of infinite notes, the artist who concerns Himself with every detail, bringing into fruition the culmination of history, His masterpiece at last.

Our perspective in suffering must be rooted in the sovereignty of God. To think trials, suffering, and death is without purpose and meaning is to assume the identity of an unbelieving world. A personal God, who providentially rules over history, will not leave you void of strength and hope. There is design, though often unseen and unfelt, in everything, including the pain and desperation we feel as we grope to understand the pain and anguish of our circumstances.

The bruised reed is a man who for the most part is in some misery, just as those
were who came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as its cause, for,
whatever pretences sin makes, they come to an end when we are bruised and broken.

Richard Sibbes

God purposes trials and suffering in order that our deeply rooted sins be brought to light. Oftentimes it is sin we have failed to recognize or sin that we do, relying on our own works righteousness rather than that of Christ’s. Our pride is a catalyst for bitterness yet we cling tenaciously to it. In unbound desperation we wage war within ourselves unto misery. Christ remedies our state, stripping us of all pretentiousness, laying bare our bruised and broken souls, As pitiful creatures in ourselves, He gathers us to Himself, reclothing us in righteousness and binding our wounds. The Balm of Gilead restores us.

To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured
that all things which fall out shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall
be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace
and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over.

Thomas Watson

In trials and suffering we walk with God. His grace is sufficient for us and in Him and through Him He has made available every resource we need to look with hope to the One who loves us. We know that our present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory and it is this hope that spurs us on. Our life is but a breath. If we are to suffer, let us suffer well. Let us carry the banner of Christ, putting aside our own sorrows, and tend to the needs of a broken world. Our hope is in Christ. The world needs to see us, despite the difficulties and trials, praising Him, reaching out to the lost and hopeless who thirst unto death, and bringing truth and hope. The Living Water has blessed us immeasurably. He sustains us and His strength carries us into the long tomorrow.

Despite all that I have been through and am currently dealing with, I cannot find fault with God. I trust in His sovereignty, that He has a plan and purpose for every trial, for every tear. He has bruised me, He has laid bare my soul, He has burdened me with the evidence and weight of my sin. His name be praised. I no longer ask Him to remove the circumstance from my life. He has taught me to say, “Lord, walk with me.” That I know Him better, that I trust in Him completely, that I grow in His wisdom–these are the things suffering is manifesting.

May we all find Christ’s meaning and purpose in suffering.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have a peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:1-5

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Cheryl L. Stansberry

Cheryl L. Stansberry is a Christian speculative fiction writer and blogger with a desire to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and make Him beautiful and glorious in the eyes of the people.

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Comments (2)

  1. None of us asks for suffering, but how true it is that God sends it for our best. It’s been well said that no one learns the deepest things of God on vacation. You’re article here is well received.

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