Read Part 1.
My comfort in suffering comes from the knowledge that God ordains my suffering for my eternal good and his glory. It is not enough to say that God allows my suffering. After all, why would God allow something if it wasn’t for the best. For God to allow something would imply that another force of equal or greater power was the actual cause of my suffering. That is clearly not the case. So, the all-wise God must be the prime cause of my suffering, and if He is all-loving and all-powerful, then He ordains it for my good and fully controls it.
Some may ask, how is that comforting??? I am comforted by the truth of God’s all-wise and sovereign ordination of my suffering because I know that none of it is wasted, and I do not suffer one more second than God ordains. Every second of my suffering is precisely what God knows I need to grow in holiness. Romans 5:3-5 reminds us:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The suffering we experience produces character in us when we endure it in a way that is surrendered to God’s will. This character has eternal value as we are made more like Christ through it. The priority of eternal glory over temporal comfort is a constant theme in the Apostle Paul’s writing.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
The weight of glory. That is why the sovereign God ordains the suffering in our lives that he does. He is preparing us in this brief lifetime for eternity. He does not promise present comfort and ease. He is making sure that we are ready for an eternal glory that we cannot comprehend and that is too terrible to consider unless our hearts are transformed to long for it.
In his book, The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis writes of our weak desires for the paltry prizes of comfort and ease.
Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
As Tim Keller has said, “If I knew what God knew I would do exactly in my life what he is doing presently.” That is a difficult truth to accept because many times we don’t see how the suffering we endure could possibly ever have a purpose. Like a child who must trust her father as he entrusts her to the hands of a surgeon, so we must trust our Father’s plan in the suffering he ordains. Resting in God’s sovereignty is the key to peace in the midst of suffering.
I conclude with the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the 19th century Baptist pastor:
“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances, and if you had the choosing of your lot, you would soon cry, ‘Lord, choose my inheritance for me, for by my self-will I am pierced through with many sorrows.’ Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good.”
Mark Farnham is Associate Professor and Coordinator of Pastoral and Pre-Seminary Majors at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. Previously he taught systematic theology and apologetics at the seminary level for eleven years. Prior to that he served as senior pastor in New London, CT for seven years. Mark earned a PhD in Apologetics from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He also holds a Master of Theology degree in New Testament from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity degree from Calvary Baptist Seminary.