SHARE YOUR SUFFERING

 

If God is sovereign, then why does he ordain suffering?

 

There are so few questions more important. In fact, pause briefly and wrestle with that question. I promise the next sentence will be waiting for you patiently when you’re done.

 

Be skeptical of answers that claim to deliver a neat, cleanly packaged solution. These well-intentioned answers usually accomplish one of two things: they either diminish God or diminish suffering. There are theological answers that attempt to explain the pain away, and then there emotional answers that attempt to explain God away. In the tension of life, they prescribe us to take painkillers rather than spit painkillers out. Live in the tension of this question.

 

If God is sovereign, then why does he ordain suffering?

 

Take one step back. Have you ever thought about why God ordains that we wrestle with why God ordains suffering? To phrase it a second way, God has appointed that we struggle with why God has appointed suffering.

 

In other words, maybe there’s not just an answer to the question of God and suffering, but there’s also a purpose to the question of God and suffering. Personally, anytime I grapple with the question of God and suffering, I feel like a stretch armstrong doll. I experience a pull one way (“God is in control”) while simultaneously experiencing a pull in the opposite direction (“things feel out of control”). It feels like a spiritual snakebite.

 

Maybe this stretching is good. Maybe it makes us more like Christ. After all, our greatest good has come to us in the wake of the world’s greatest suffering. Salvation is a consequence of the cross.

 

That’s not a clean answer, but it’s a good start.

 

If God is sovereign, then why does he ordain suffering?

 

The book of Philippians helps. In the midst of of dazzling poetry about knowing and gaining Christ, Paul mentions sharing Christ’s suffering (Philippians 3:10) as synonymous with these great things. Sharing Christ’s sufferings.

 

To Paul, this of course refers to Christ sharing his sufferings with Paul. But the sharing of suffering is not just a “Jesus and me” experience. The Greek word for “sharing” is actually communal. To Paul, sharing Christ’s sufferings also meant sharing them with the church.

 

Sharing sufferings? You mean like the same way you share a meal? Yes. Like the same way you share your money? Yes, like that. The same way you share hospitality? Absolutely.

 

If God is sovereign, then why does he ordain suffering?

 

Your suffering is given to you so that you would share it with others. In the economy of God, suffering is a good that makes us more like Christ. And if this is true, it’s not selfless to keep your suffering to yourself.

 

It’s actually selfish.

 

FOR SUNDAY

 

CALL TO WORSHIP: 1 THESSALONIANS 5:23-24

 

REJOICE: 1 THESSALONIANS 5:23-24

 

God you are our peace we have none besides you,

Sanctify our souls, body, and mind through & through.

 

Help us to rejoice in You!

 

When our flesh wages a war against your  glory,

Your Spirit keep us blameless, You are the only one holy

 

Help us to rejoice in You!

 

You are faithful to give us what you promise, the satisfaction of our souls,

Give us our greatest need, Yourself, our desires are in your control.

 

Help us to rejoice in You!

 

REJOICE: PHILIPPIANS 1:6-11

 

May our love abound all the more as we see Christ our Savior,

Through song, speech, and  word, what a magnificent Creator!

 

Help us to rejoice in You!

 

Help us discern what is excellent, and so forsake sin’s dull allure,

Draw us deeper and deeper into the One who makes our hearts pure.

 

Help us to rejoice in You!

 

Give us your righteousness. No other copy will do,

Satisfy us in the wilderness. Give us heaven’s food.

 

Help us to rejoice in You!

 

BAPTIST CATECHISM, NEW CITY CATECHISM, 1689 LONDON BAPTIST CONFESSION

 

Let us hold fast to our confession of hope,

God is the first and best of beings,

And our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever!

 

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,

Our only hope in life and death is that we are not our own

but belong, body and soul, both in life and death,

to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

We glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him,

and by obeying his will, commands, and law.

 

Let us hold fast without wavering,

God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, is alone all-sufficient.

He is the only fountain of all being,

of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things,

and he has sovereign dominion over everything,

his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon us,

and nothing is to him is contingent, undecided or uncertain,

he is most holy in all his ways, in all his works, and in all his wants;

to him is due from us worship, service, and joy!

 

BENEDICTION:

 

Our father who art in heaven,

hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,

on earth, as it is in heaven.

 

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.

 

For thine is the kingdom,

the power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.  Amen.

 

 

 

MORE NOTES