This is Part 2 of 5 parts answering the question, “Why does God allow suffering for new creations?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 3-5 will be posted on succeeding days.
Humans Suffer Because of the Sovereign Wisdom of God
We have discussed previously many of the purposes of suffering.1 Our tendency is that we would like to define the specific purpose for any given suffering, but the answer might be “one” of the explanations previously given or a combination of several that have been mentioned. Larry Waters writes,
The answer to the question, “why do the righteous suffer?” cannot be satisfied by one explanation. The many reasons given in Scripture for personal suffering must all be examined in light of God’s grace. Suffering taught Job that he was righteous because he had a grace relationship with the Righteous One, not because he had earned it. Job knew God and responded with humility, love, and godly fear for God’s sovereignty (42:1-2), realized God’s inscrutability (v. 3) reflected on God’s superiority (v. 4), refocused on God’s intimacy (v. 5), and repented of serving God from wrong motivation (v. 6).2
One way to explain or define suffering is “God’s sovereign work through which He reveals Himself to man. Trials enable one to understand or know God in ways that he never would otherwise.” Job was brought to a higher understanding of the Lord, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. 6 Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6 NKJ)
Job understood as an individual, through his own agony, but what about the world at large? How does everyone else understand God in more intimate ways, if they don’t have intimate conversations with God like Job had? Are Christians today left with only God’s communication through His Word to reassure them not to question His wonder and wisdom? And is finite man left only with the invisible reality that he must choose to trust God by faith instead of hear the audible words or see His form to believe? The answer is similar to what God taught Job – trust God’s sovereign mercy! We own the completed Bible today. It has everything any believer needs for doctrine and living. Trust it and you will reap fantastic blessings and rewards!
New Creations Suffer Because of the Presence of Sin and the Sin Nature
There are two basic reasons why Christians continue to suffer, even as “new creations.” First, there is the existence of sin in the world which causes creation to groan (Rom. 8:22), thorns to grow (Gen. 3:17-19) and bodies to wear down and out (2 Cor. 5:1-5). When the earth is destroyed through fire (2 Pet. 3:10-11), it will be cleansed of sin’s presence. But, there is also our personal sin nature residing in our lives. It will remain until the old body is removed and a new resurrection body is provided by God.
The presence of the sin nature in every believer is clear, simply because every Christian sins! Paul described his own struggle with his sin nature,
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Rom. 7:13-20 NKJ)
Additionally, Paul affirmed the presence of the sin nature as he mentioned his “body of death,”
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom. 7:23-25 NKJ)
We have seen here that although the believer is a new creation, he still has a sin nature. This distracts him from the holiness of God and must be brought under control of the Holy Spirit, who alone can control the sin nature. The believer is not able to control it himself. He must be filled or empowered by God’s Spirit through dependency on Him to control his body of death. And, in order to restore a believer to holiness, God may impose Divine discipline for the purposes of instruction and mercy.