Monday, June 1, 2009

The Sovereignty of God in Suffering

Two of our children wrote a paper on this topic. Linda, nearly 21, has her own blog, so you can find her paper here.

Daniel, 19, has given me permission to post his paper on my blog. I'll post it in sections. If you look at the left sidebar, right at the top, you'll see links to all the parts in order. Here's the first part - The Introduction & The Origin of Suffering.

God’s Sovereignty in Suffering

Job 5:6 For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, 7 but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

Everybody suffers. Suffering is something that most would avoid at all costs. It is what most fear, because of its terrible qualities. As defined by the Webster’s dictionary: [1]



1. Troubled by pain or loss; "suffering refugees".

2. Very unhappy; full of misery; "he felt depressed and miserable"; "a message of hope for suffering humanity"; "wretched prisoners huddled in stinking cages".


1. A state of acute pain.

2. Misery resulting from affliction.

3. Psychological suffering; "the death of his wife caused him great distress".

4. Feelings of mental or physical pain.

“Suffering is any unwanted condition and the corresponding negative emotion. It is usually associated with pain and unhappiness, but any condition can be suffering if it is unwanted. Antonyms include happiness or pleasure.”

There are many examples of suffering in the media:

“It’s terrible; the children are starving in Africa.”[2]

“The swine flu is killing hundreds!”[3]

“The economy is crashing, millions are out of work.”[4]

“There are threats of wars.”[5]

“There are Somali pirates.” [6]

No one can say; “I have never suffered.” Everyone has had reason to shed tears. (Job 5:6)

The question is, "Where is God in all of this?" If God is a good God, why are there wars, famines, diseases, deaths, and suffering? Do we suffer for no purpose? Can some good come out of our suffering? Why does God allow us to suffer?

1. The Origin of Suffering.

In The beginning everything was created very good (Gen 1:31). There were no terrible things in the world; nothing would have caused suffering. God designed a place perfect for man to live in (Gen 2:8). Adam had everything he needed to eat (Gen 2:9). Then God created a perfect helper for man (Gen 2:22). God gave Adam work to do; he wouldn’t have suffered boredom. (Gen. 2:15)

Genesis 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

When God gave this command to Adam, God set consequences if he disobeyed. God told Adam that he would surely die, making it very clear to Adam that if he ate, he would suffer the consequences.

Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Not heeding God’s command, both Adam and Eve sinned, and thus began to suffer. Before they sinned, they had fellowship with God, and were unashamed together. (Gen 2:25) They were completely open with one another. (Gen 2:23)

The first thing they suffered was a loss in their relationship; they were ashamed of themselves and desired to cover up their nakedness. (Gen 3:7)

Next, they suffered a loss in their relationship with God (Gen 3:10) For the first time Adam was afraid of God. He hid his face from God. His Creator became his enemy, and he lost his ability to walk and talk with his God. All of these were terrible suffering. Seeing God used to be a joy and blessing for Adam, and it became a terror.

God then put a curse on the Woman and the Man (Gen 3:16). Eve lost what would have been a pure blessing, and the consequence was that she would have pain in childbirth. The marriage covenant, instead of bringing joy, became a source of conflict. Rather than submit to her husband, she would now desire to take his role of leadership in the marriage covenant (Gen 3:17).

Adam lost the joy in his work. It became a burden, rather than a blessing. The earth was cursed because of him. (Ro. 8:22) His relationship with his wife changed- This woman that was supposed to be one flesh with him, became in his eyes a slave, and rather than loving her, he now “rules over” Eve. .

Next we see Adam and Eve suffer the loss of their home. (Gen 3:24)

And even more so, they suffer a murder in the family. (Gen 4:8-10)

One of their sons is cursed. (Gen 4:13-14)

The consequences of Adam’s sin were not his alone.

We read in Roman 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinnedAdam’s one sin corrupted the whole world; the world has been dying (and suffering) ever since. (Ro. 8:22-23).

So we see that the origin of our suffering is Adam's sin.

Death is God's limit on creatures whose sin is that they want to be gods (Gen. 3:4-5; Rom. 1:18-23). The true God is holy; he is unique, and cannot, by his very nature, tolerate those who try to relativize him. We are not gods; and by death we learn that we are only human. Our pretensions are destroyed. We are cut off, and all our yesterdays "are one with Nineveh and Tyre." ~ How Long, O Lord? - D. A. Carson.[7]







[7] How Long O Lord? By D.A. Carson p. 99

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