Theology of Suffering

The following is a devotional essay written by Austin Hoffman, a friend of mine, who is preparing for church-planting ministry. Austin has an open invitation to post his writings here any time.

When trials come, why do we always feel as if God was taken by surprise? Why do we think of God as an idle being until trouble comes our way? Why do we believe that God will spring into action to save us from all trouble as if He was caught off guard by it? We think of God this way because we want Him to be concerned with our comfort. However, we know that God is not taken by surprise by any amount of suffering that we go through.

We suppress this knowledge because we are uncomfortable with the notion that God does not care about our mere comfort; He is committed to something far greater. God is committed to saving souls. God is committed to sanctifying His saints. God is committed to shaping and molding worshippers for His own glory. But this unseen purpose of God scares us. We don’t want to believe that God permits and even orchestrates the gut-wrenching agonies that we feel, for a purpose we may never see. We want God to be constantly committed to our pleasure. He is not. However, He always works in a transcendent and sovereign way to bring about good to the praise of His own glory (Rom 8:28; Gen 50:20; 1 Pet 1:7).

This can be a reassuring thought, for we know that God’s unseen will transcends our own constant comfort. So if God must break me in order to save another, so be it. I will not be broken without cause. If God must cause me to stagger and fall beneath an unbearable load, so be it. I will not bear the burden alone. If God allows or even orchestrates a heart-scarring pain into my life, simply to make me more Christ-like, so be it. Whatever unspeakable agony I bear, I can bear it through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).

Why do we revolt against the sovereignty of God when troubles come our way? Is it because we are far too consumed with our own comfort or pleasure? A faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted. A faith that is tested through unspeakable agony is more precious that gold refined through fire (1 Pet 1:7). God desires that we trust in Him completely, rely on Him fully, and seek no other refuge or confidence than the Son of God. He desires that the life we live be lived completely by faith in the Son of God (Gal 2:20). When we face our fiery trial, we ought to rejoice in the Lord that He is sovereignly working towards His perfect will. God’s will cannot ever be improved upon; it is perfect.

So when our hearts are scarred so deeply that words cannot describe the pain we feel, we ought to be driven to worship. We ought to praise God because He is committed to a greater goal and purpose than our mere comfort. We ought to rejoice, because we are in the center of God’s sovereign purpose. We finally ought to lean on Christ, and lean hard – we do not bear our burden alone. Run to Christ. Find in Him the most secure refuge. Commit your future to the keeper and guardian of your soul.

  1. #1 by David Morse on May 6, 2010 - 8:19 am

    Praise the Lord. Great post Austin. Pastor Dave and I need to convince you to start your own blog! 🙂 I know you’d be a great blogger and since you know so much about computers, I’m sure you’d have an AWESOME page too! Later!

  1. power to suffer | Coffee Shop Christianity

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