Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

dispair

On 01 Mar 1951a church was scheduled to have choir practice at 1930. As the pastor and his wife prepared to leave they discovered that their daughter had an accident and they were late, which was very unusual for them. One of the members of the choir was a high school sophomore. She was having a problem with her geography homework and was last. This was unusual for a girl that was normally early to church. There were 2 sisters that were leaving to go when their car wouldn’t start and they were late, which was unusual.

A Sunday School teacher was walking out the door she received a call from her mother who needed her help. She went to see about her mother and that caused her to be late, which was unusual. One guy took a nap before choir practice and slept through the alarm and so he was late, which was unusual. For one reason or another all the members of the choir were late for choir practice, which was unusual. When they arrived they found what was left of the church was in flames. There was a gas leak at the church and at 1975 the church exploded.  Had the choir members arrived on time they would have been killed in the explosion.

Unbelievers may look at a story like this and say, “What an amazing series of coincidences.” However, those of us that believe the Gospel and trust in the God of the Bible know that this series of events demonstrate that our God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and is able to do what is necessary to protect His people.

This story was told in a sermon where the pastor was talking about the amazing providence of God. Stories like this are exciting and encouraging to those of us who trust in the God of the Bible. We use stories like this to encourage ourselves that God is in control in our world. I wonder, however, what would happen if this story had a different ending? What if everyone had showed up unusually early and as the pastor was trying to find the gas leak the church blew up killing everyone. If this was how the story went, would we still trust in the sovereignty and providence of God?

The sovereignty of God and the suffering of man, particularly God’s people, has been a sticky issue with the Church of God for many years. The argument generally goes like this, “If God is sovereign and He is good, then there shouldn’t be any suffering in the world, particularly among those who worship God.” When this comes up people tend to run to extremes. The extreme that people run to most often is to say, “God wasn’t in that at all” or “God had nothing to do with it.

Through the years I’ve read or listened to several people who took this perspective during various tragedies and they seem to take this position in an effort to protect God’s reputation. Here is the problem with this position. When we say “God wasn’t in that at all” or “God had nothing to do with it”, then what we’re saying is that God isn’t sovereign. We make God out to be a fairly inept ruler of the universe that can’t control what happens in His creation. Or we make God out to be a God who has a “hands off” approach to the workings of the world. This is very contrary to what the Bible teaches about God.

The Bible pretty clearly teaches that God is the sovereign ruler of the universe that can do anything He wants to do and no one can stop Him. Proving this was one of the purposes of plagues God sent on Egypt when He delivered the Israelites. The Bible also teaches that God has anything but a “hands off” approach to the workings of the world.

The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.” Proverbs 16:33 (NKJV)

A very simple explanation of this is that we can throw the dice but God determines how they land.

So how do we reconcile the sovereignty of God and the suffering of man?

How do we understand God’s sovereignty in the midst of our suffering?

How do we trust God’s sovereignty in the midst of our suffering?

That’s what I plan to blog about the rest of the week.

For further study read Job 1-2.

What happened to Job?

Who was in control, God or Satan?

What does Job’s response teach us?

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