Don't let the title fool you, this article is about suffering and the sovereignty of God.
Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a family member. She ran off a list of bad things that had happened to her and her husband over the last 5 years or so (and there was a list). Finally, she came to the real problem. Her husband's mental health was deteriorating, his personality changing, the man she loved disappearing. Her anger was palpable. I tried to reassure her that God was in control and all things work to His glory. Her response:
"There is nothing good in what is happening to my husband! No one is being glorified by this! No one is benefiting from this! This isn't fair, and it isn't right! He doesn't deserve this! If God wants credit for the good stuff, he darn well better take the blame for the bad stuff!"
This really bothered me. She is a professing Christian, yet she seemed confused about things that seemed obvious to me about God, suffering, his sovereignty, and who we are. Then I remembered I didn't always know about these things.
Here is what I do know. I was a totally wretched and depraved sinner who was in open rebellion against God and was heading for Hell as fast as I could go, dead in my transgressions. Yet God, in His unfathomable mercy and unmerited grace, crucified His son so that I am reconciled to Him. Then God raised Christ from the grave so that I can have eternal life. I deserved death and damnation. Instead, I am given life and I am the beloved adopted child of the one True Living GOD. This is the Gospel. If that was the only thing God did for me, it would be more than enough for me to follow Him forever. Everything else He has given me is just icing on the cake. Everything!
So, now for the good stuff. A job that has provided for me and my family, icing on the cake. Grandkids that love me, icing on the cake. Kids who tolerate me, icing on the cake. A wonderful, loving, godly wife, triple layer of icing on the cake. But it isn't just the good things in life that we need to be grateful for. John 16:33 tells us "I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have conquered the world." Although Jesus is speaking to His disciples, I can believe any Christian can take this to heart. We are going to have troubles in this messed-up world, but we can rest assured our Savior has conquered them. He is sovereign over them (see Matt. 28:18). In Romans 8:28, we are told that for those who love God, He will work ALL things four our ultimate eternal good and His glory. Not just the good things, but ALL things. As we read in 1 Peter 5:6-11, God uses these troubles/trials to further our sanctification.
So, how are we to face these troubles? James 1 says, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds" (see also Rom. 5:3, 1 Peter 1:6, and Matt. 5:11-12). James does not say "keep a stiff upper lip" or "grin and bear it". He says to rejoice in these troubles, for God is using them for our sanctification. He is using them to make us more like Christ. What could be more joyful than that?
Well, now for the not-so-good things. Cancer. It helped me realize how mortal I am and how God is my Rock in the storm. Heart attack. It made me aware that I have complete trust in God's promise of eternal life. My beautiful bride's continuing struggle with health. A lesson in putting others first instead of myself. Icing on the cake.
So, because God is sovereign over everything that happens to me, good, bad, or neutral, I know that they are ALL for my sanctification and eternal good. Because of this I can truly take heart and rest in God's peace (Phil. 4:4-9). Now I need to share this with my relative so that she knows it, too. But first, I have a sudden craving for cake. Better go sweet-talk the wife.