Below is a list of some of the best resources I have found from John Piper on suffering and it’s relationship to God. These Biblical concepts have been some of the most precious material in my life over the years of pain with my messed up family past and my mom’s death. Wrestling through this brings about so much joy and trust that God’s sovereign, intentional designs in suffering and evil itself, are for His glory and our good. We can say to ourselves, “God will work it for good,” while denying He Himself ultimately brought it about (while remaining righteous). Yet Job ascribed the ultimate cause of his loss to God Himself (Job 2:9-10), all of which was meant to bring about the very response he has in Job 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” There were definitely secondary causes (Satan, etc). But underneath those causes was the sovereign, directing hand of God. Satan could only do what God allowed him to do, and no more. Nothing was outside of His control and authority. Satan was/is on a very short leash before the LORD.
To really see God right in the middle of your pain and suffering, bringing you to despair of any hope in yourself or anything in the world and turn to Christ alone for all strength, satisfaction, healing, comfort, is the most loving thing He could possibly do (i.e. one of the reasons to rejoice in suffering, God’s intentions in it: His glory, and our hearts’ greatest satisfaction ever, His glory and essence!). It is totally counterintuitive to the world. But ultimately seeing that God Himself has sovereign, providential design in evil itself (while remaining sinless and righteous at the same time), is to really experience the glory and majesty of God, just as Job did after wrestling through God’s justice in bringing about such calamity in Job 42:5-6, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Where do we see the sovereign hand of God the most clearly in evil and suffering? The cross. Every point leading up to it, every little detail in it, every wicked hand culpable to judgment in it, was planned from the foundation of the world, and Christ willingly (sovereignly) laid down His life in the midst of infinite opposition at the hand of His Father to bring wretched sinners to Himself. There was intelligent design in the work of the cross itself, and for this event to take place, God had to and did sovereignly ordain whatsoever came to pass. Nothing caught Him by surprise, from the smallest molecule involved in darkening the sky when Christ hanged there, to the reigning authorities in the land overseeing His execution. God had good purpose and design in every piece, though look at how it is indeed the most wicked act ever to have taken place: the murder of the innocent Son of God, existing from all eternity. If He orchestrated this event, how much more every step of our lives, even when it is at its worst (cancer, children dying, spouse’s dying, injury, loss of good friends, loss of a job, financial distress)? I pray these resources help all of you who may be hurting that you may see God’s loving hand in it and rejoice in Him alone as your source of all life, spiritual, emotional, psychological. If these things do not sit well with you, please wrestle through them. Do not give up. May we rest in God’s loving providence for His people, that when He brings about pain in our lives, it is to wean us off of trusting in the things of the world, or ourselves, and rather flee to Christ for comfort, strength, power, satisfaction, salvation.
Don’t Waste Your Cancer
Why I Do Not Say, “God Did Not Cause the Calamity, but He Can Use It for Good”
Tsunami and Repentance
Was Katrina Intelligent Design?
NPR Interview with John Piper After the Tsunami (MP3)
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God – Desiring God 2005 National Conference