Of all hard questions, the question of suffering is especially relevant to daily life. And one of the chief issues surrounding suffering connects with the sovereignty of God. Since all suffering has its starting point with Creation and the Fall, that’s where a theology of suffering must begin. In Part 1, we established the fact that in a world in which humans are free moral agents, capable of making their own choices, pain and suffering was inevitable. In such a world, a sovereign and loving God would not only grieve that result, but He would also limit its extent and provide a way to escape such suffering and communicate that escape route to all humanity. And that’s exactly what our good God does.
The Importance of Praise
Romans 1:21 makes what may seem like a surprising connection between the worst, most perverse forms of evil and its root: a thankless heart that refuses to praise God. The thoughtful reader will realize that such a connection is not new: the first of the Ten Commandments requires that we consider God to have the supreme place in our hearts and lives. It’s only when we have our priorities straight, at least in our minds, that we can possibly respond to suffering in a way that doesn’t completely embitter us or make us completely ineffective in the war against Evil. (More about that a little later.)
In Philippians 3-4, Paul pairs this idea of persevering during difficulties with praising and thanking God, as well: It’s through offering our insufficiency and all that we don’t know in exchange for the peace we can experience only when we trust the One who sovereignly understands and controls all things.
The Assurance of Redemption
Not only did God tell Adam and Eve how to avoid pain, but when they chose their own way, He provided a way back — and offers us the same. He truly does deserve our praise! We do well to lift our gaze from our current circumstances toward Heaven, as those listed in the faith chapter of Hebrews 11 did. While that “Far Kingdom” may seem all too far away, it’s being convinced of its reality that offers true hope to the believer, even in the middle of hard times. It can be a very helpful thing to consider the time and place where all wrongs will be righted, all crooked ways made straight.
These words about Heaven from the Gray Havens can encourage a hurting heart:
There is a far kingdom
On the other side of the glass
And by a faint light we see
Still there is more gladness
Longing for the sight
Than to behold or be filled, by anything.
If God hadn’t made a way back from suffering or wasn’t really in control or concerned at all, hopelessness and despair would be our only recourse; but His many promises assure us that just as suffering will not last forever, it is also limited by God’s loving, sovereign hand.