Is My Suffering Meaningless?

Vaneetha Rendall writing at Desiring God:

A few weeks ago, I met with a friend who believes that while God draws near to us in our trials, people often suffer in ways that God never intended. God reacts to our suffering but never causes it.

To her, the Calvinist view that God has ordained all our suffering is inhumane. She sees it as completely against God’s loving character — hurtful at best, and vindictive at worst. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more.

Reformed theology has offered me life-giving hope in the wake of unspeakable sorrow. I understand it sounds cruel to say that God willed my infant son’s death. But believing that my son died against God’s will is far worse. That would mean that God is not in control, evil can ultimately win, and my future is uncertain. Moreover, it would mean that my son’s death was random. Meaningless. Without purpose.

I honestly cannot imagine a more depressing scenario. As someone who has endured adversity, my greatest comfort is knowing that God is sovereign. He has ordained all of my trials, and therefore, my suffering has purpose.

Read the whole article here. Seriously it’s a good reminder.

I personally have a very cynical view of life. To me, anything bad that can will happen anytime and anywhere, no matter the amount of planning I do. So I’m rarely caught off-guard when tragedy strikes. If things go smoothly it’s entirely by the grace of God, nothing to do with ‘luck’ or timing. In my world, God is sovereign and holds the ultimate control of all things that happen to me. If I can reconcile that in my head — that God is the one who allows the good things — I can also believe the converse of that, that God ‘permits’ bad things to happen to me for my own good.

This probably isn’t a view shared by many and I know of churches where the messages preached there never touch on how God uses the bad things in life for our good. I can’t help but feel that this is an incomplete message.

We know that the earth we live on isn’t a good place. People get sick, people do bad things, people suffer here. Even though we might get better or justice might prevail we still eventually die. So life on earth is transient and our focus shouldn’t be on getting the most out of it (enjoyment, money, comfort) but rather what we can give to make it a better place (a topic for another time though).

I don’t know how to explain why God is the one who permits suffering in this world, but I agree with Vaneetha that the opposite — suffering occurs out of God’s control — is a far worse conclusion.

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