Sunday, April 29, 2007

Question #5: What does our suffering say about the character of God?

About one month ago I began a series on suffering. This came about after my son, Bobby, was diagnosed with Lymphoma. The series includes these four posts: “Why does my child have to suffer?” “Does God want my child to be healed?” “Why does a good, omnipotent God allow suffering?” and “Does God cause or allow suffering?”

I have taken a while to put together the final post in this series because writing about the character of God is a daunting, profound thing.

As this post begins, let’s remember a few things. First, the Bible is our source of reference and authority. Second, we all deserve death, and anything good we have is a gift from God. Third, the word “our” in the title of this post refers specifically to the suffering of Christians that is not brought about directly because of our own sin.

The scriptures tell us that God has many wonderful attributes. These include His holiness (Exodus 20, Isaiah 6), His love (I John 4:7-21), His grace (Ephesians 2:1-10), and His mercy (II Corinthians 1:3-4). These attributes must be consistent with God being the cause of our suffering (Genesis 50:14-20, Job 1:21, Job 2:10, II Corinthians 12:7-9).

We also know from the Bible that God is the giver of good gifts. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” Scripture, then, is telling us that our sufferings and tribulations are gifts from our holy, loving, gracious, merciful Father.

How can this be? What good does suffering bring? Paul spells this out for us in Romans 5:3-4. These two verses say, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” Suffering, then, leads to hope. Paul then tells us that hope “does not disappoint.” Biblical hope is the looking forward to an assured outcome.

In Titus 2:13, Paul refers to the second coming of Christ as our “blessed hope.” We have hope both for the future return of Jesus, and hope for today as God draws us closer to Him through our suffering (see again II Cor. 12:7-9).

Our holy, loving Father God grants us suffering as a gift in order to lead us to a hope that does not disappoint.

In light of all this, we can see clearly that God being holy, God being loving, God being gracious, and God being merciful is consistent with His causing suffering. His character is consistently, unwaveringly perfect.

2 comments:

Dave Black said...

Amen and amen! You all continue in my prayers.

Eric said...

Dave,

Thank you so much! Bobby is making solid progress right now against the lymphoma, but it remains a struggle. God continues to be good, as always.

Eric