I was visiting my parents home in Pennsylvania about a month ago and was blessed by the fact that both of my brothers were there as well. This rarely happens anymore so it really was a special time. Naturally, my mom had scheduled us to sing in church together, seeing that all of us can at least change notes…and sometimes carry a tune (them more than I).
So my brother Seth chose a Shane and Shane song called “Though You Slay Me”. I love this song. It is melancholy and hopeful at the same time, and there is a reason for that.
Christianity has a theology of suffering. In fact, the “problem of evil” was a very large part of my embracing the Doctrines of Grace. God either has to be in sovereign control over all things or the following two options are true: suffering is meaningles-or God is impotent (or both). These options though are not able to be derived from the Bible, which is were we draw our knowledge of God. So we are left with option 1: God is in sovereign control of evil.
Many Christians would acknowledge this, but to varying degrees. I would guess that the majority of Christendom would advocate that God is sovereign over the ends, but what about the means? God must have to let it ride because- you know, free will. BUT is this what the Bible says?
Genesis 50: 19-20 “But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
God most certainly controlled the ends…but He also most certainly was not passive in the means.
What does Paul tell us to expect as Christians?
Phil 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”
This is part of God’s plan. Not some uncontrollable thing that God has to work around.
To address the immediate objection: “Doesn’t this make God the author of sin?” I will most quickly and emphatically answer “NO!”
To use an analogy I have heard; No one in their right mind would condemn Shakespeare for the murder of King Duncan. Shakespeare may have wrote the play but Macbeth done dood the deed.
This is just a fraction of the level of disparity between our level of existence and God’s. He is the play writer but He does not commit the sins in the play Himself. God was not surprised by Adam and Eve’s sin. He had planned to redeem mankind before He had ever created the world. (Rev 13:8) Why? Because everything is about God showing His glory, His awesomeness, and His holiness. And so as not to confuse anyone, it is not about God needing to receiving glory (see Austin Fischer’s book “Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed”, and also see the following interactions between Kevin DeYoung and Austin) but rather about Him showing His glory. No action did this greater than the cross.
We suffer now, but there will be a day when all sorrow will cease, where there will be no suffering. Those whom God saved will live eternally in peace in His presence.
So until then, we can quote Romans 8:28 with full confidence because we know that God also controls the means. No suffering is pointless, though we may not see or understand. Take heart Christian, your Lord loves you; so cry out with Job “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”