This is Part 5 of 8 parts answering the question, “What are God’s purposes in why He allows suffering?” in the larger question of “Why does God allow suffering?” Part 6-8 will be posted on succeeding days.
God Allows Suffering to Create Greater Dependency Upon Him
Most teenage boys think they are invincible (at least my friends and I did when I was growing up!) Yet, as the years roll by that invincibility slowly changes into the realization of one’s utter frailty and weakness – and then the despair of laborious breathing at death’s door sets in! God allows suffering to reveal our need of His sustaining grace.
What do parents do when a team of doctors report they have done everything they can for their ten-year-old son, who is dying of cancer? What does a father of three young boys do, when the doctors respond after two hours on the surgical table that they did all they could to save his wife from vehicular crash injuries? What does a widow do when her husband of 51 years dies of brain cancer and she has no family support? Each one learns dependency on the grace, mercy and love of God. Each one learns that Jesus is sufficient in all circumstances. Each one learns that God will never leave or forsake them. It is through weakness and suffering that we find His joy is our strength and peace. Paul wrote,
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19 NKJ)
Paul also commented to the unbelievers on Mars Hill in Athens about this total dependency upon God, “…for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, `For we are also His offspring.” (Acts 17:28 NKJ) There are many reasons why man seeks his own independence, and he has done so ever since he was a baby. That was Satan’s big sin, which caused his fall. It continues to be man’s sin today. Independence is the opposite of faith, which is dependence upon another person or object. Anything that is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23).
Consider how Job learned total dependency on the Lord. When the Lord allowed his children to be taken, his wife encouraged him to blaspheme God so he would die. When his friends who turned on him left him completely alone. Waters writes,
Job was left with God and God alone. Job’s prosperity was returned only after everyone involved understood that all blessing comes by God’s grace alone, not because of an individual’s piety nor because of accepting a retribution/recompense theology.7
Why did God leave Job alone? Was God trying to make Job miserable? Increase his suffering? No! Through this process, God revealed Himself to Job so he would understand that God alone is totally sovereign and merciful in all His ways. God does not need to explain Himself. Waters writes further about why God revealed Himself,
Through this interrogation, God has taught Job that He alone created everything—the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them—and He alone controls all that He created. He alone has the right to do with His own as He pleases. He is under no obligation to explain His actions to His creation. He alone is sovereign and unaccountable to anyone.8
Job is one of the greatest books to help us understand God’s purposes in suffering. Job cried out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15 NKJ) Larry Waters reflects on the book of Job and includes 16 Biblical principles that can be learned:
- 1. God is not to be limited to a preconceived notion of retribution/recompense [payback] theology.
- 2. [ Personal] Sin is not always the basis for suffering.
- 3. Accepting false tenets about suffering can cause one to blame and challenge God.
- 4. A [payback] theology distorts God’s ways and confines Him to human standards of interpretation.
- 5. Satan is behind this false concept and delights in using it to afflict the righteous.
- 6. The devil’s world is unfair and unjust, and even though people may misunderstand the ways of God and the “why’s” of life, having a personal relationship with God is the only way one can know justice.
- 7. Life is more than a series of absurdities and unexplainable pains that simply must be endured. Instead life for believers is linked with God’s unseen purpose.
- 8. People do not always know all the facts, nor is such knowledge necessary for living a life of faith.
- 9. God’s wisdom is above human wisdom.
- 10. God’s blessings are based solely on grace, not on a traditional, legalistic formula.
- 11. Suffering can be faced with faith and trust in a loving, gracious God even when there is no immediately satisfying logical or rational reason to do so.
- 12. God does allow suffering, pain, and even death, if they best serve His purposes.
- 13. Prosperity theology has no place in God’s grace plan.
- 14. Suffering can have a preventive purpose.
- 15. The greatest of saints struggle with the problem of undeserved suffering and will continue to do so.
- 16. Because God’s people are intimately related to him, suffering is often specifically designed to glorify God in unseen war with Satan and to bring others to salvation and a deepened relationship with God. (writer’s emphasis)9
As God creates conditions to help us learn dependency upon Him through suffering, He also uses it that we might learn He is always loving us through the suffering and that we might see His glory.
7Waters, Larry, “Reflections on Suffering from the Book of Job” in Bibliothecra Sacra 154 (October-December, 1997) p. 447
8Ibid. p. 449.
Part 6 will be posted tomorrow.