This is Part 4 of 5 parts answering the question, “Is it Sin that Causes God to Allow Suffering?” in the larger question of “Why does a loving God allow Suffering?” Part 5 will be posted tomorrow.
Suffering from Satan
There are separate chapters that will deal with the suffering that comes from Satan, but it needs to be addressed here also. The picture of suffering from Satan is clearly described in Job. In his section on Satan’s attacks on Job, Larry Waters explains,
While Satan is the prime mover behind sin, evil, and suffering, God allowed Satan to inflict Job. Satan was the cause of Job’s suffering, and God’s people feel the effects of such attacks. God, however, is also at work in suffering. This does not imply that God is detached and uninvolved in what happens to his people.5
Notice as Waters points out that God was still involved. In fact, He is sovereign and only gave Satan permission to cause specific suffering (reasons will be given in following chapters). Waters notes how Satan is under God’s constraints,
God is great in intellect, power, and knowledge. So his ways are usually past finding out (28;23; Isa. 55:9). God inflicts suffering directly and indirectly for many different reasons: judgment, discipline, refining, and more. But since the fall of mankind, Satan is under God’s constraints, in that God is behind all human misery.6
What are Satan’s tactics for causing suffering? Mark Bailey provides a good summary,
Satan’s tactics for unbelievers and believers include deception and destruction, which have as their goal the disruption of Gods plan for an intimate relationship of trust and obedience with his creatures. Satan even used his menacing methods against Jesus in the temptation accounts (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), and Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42), through Judas at the time of his betrayal (Luke 22:3), and in Peter’s denial of the Lord in the courtyard of the high priest (Luke 22:31-34).7
We’ll examine this particular portion in two upcoming chapters and cover specifically why Satan is so adamant about causing suffering on people today. Finally, there is suffering related to living in a fallen world, but its purpose is for the glory of God. Even so, it still feels like agony!
Suffering for the glory of God
Jesus said that we would suffer (have tribulation) in this life (John 16:33). On several occasions, He used suffering in directing the disciples to understand that all circumstances are for the glory of God. For example, in John 9, as Jesus was walking along with the disciples, they saw a man who was blind from birth and they asked Him who had sinned – the man or his parents? Jesus clarified that the blindness wasn’t from personal sin,
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. (John 9:1-3 NKJ)
God never wastes any opportunity or difficult circumstance to reveal His glory. In fact, when Jesus’ close friend Lazarus died, Jesus waited an additional four days. Why did He wait the four days? Because He wanted to reveal the glory of God!
2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:2-4 NKJ)
In both of those circumstances, we read of “good” conclusions – there was healing and resuscitation. However, God also used suffering for His own glory, even when the result did not appear to be “good.” The example was when the tower of Siloam fell and killed over a dozen people,
2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5 NKJ)
Repentance always brings glory to God, because it demonstrates the dependency of the creature on the Creator. We may not understand the timing of death, but all situations are designed to drive us to the foot of the cross and the person of Jesus Christ!
Job suffered the loss of his wealth, his health and his ten children. His friends were sure that his sufferings represented judgment for some secret sins, but God never revealed to him or his friends the reason behind the suffering. God did, however, reveal that He is sovereign and that we can trust Him for all of life’s circumstances.
5Waters, p. 112
6Ibid., p. 113
7Bailey, p. 162
Part 5 will be posted tomorrow.