One of the core truths of the Bible is the God is in control of everything, especially over suffering. This truth is seen graphically in two places. Firstly in the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) where Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery but God, through sins against Joseph and other circumstances, gives Joseph the weighty task of being a ruler in Egypt. As you know, one of the highpoints in the narrative is when Joseph’s brothers come before him to plead for their life. It is then Joseph says “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” (Genesis 50:19-21) It is here where we see the evil acts of man are not outside of the plan of God. In fact, both God and man are working in the same act but bringing different intentions to the act itself, God’s intention was to save, man’s intention to do evil. The second place where this doctrine is seen is the cross, especially as it is unpacked in Acts 4. In Acts 4 after a wave of persecution the believers pray this prayer about the cross “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” (Acts 4:27-28) Once again we see two intentions at work in the cross, one to bring life and one to bring death. We once again see God in control of evil and suffering. I could talk about this theme in Job or in Pauls letters but I think the above references point out the theme of God being control of suffering is a biblical one.
I find it comforting that God is not in heaven wondering about the evil and suffering in the world. God is not in heaven wondering “What happened to Niels Kristensen?” Why isn’t he wondering that? Because he is in control of my Dads cancer. This is comforting because I know that God has a reason for doing all this. I am not sure of his reason(s) but I know whatever happens God will be glorified and people will be saved. Therefore, I can rest in knowing there is some purpose behind my dad and my family’s suffering and it is not some random thing put upon us by dumb luck. Because dad’s suffering is under the watchful eye of God and it is under his control it has some higher meaning, meaning that I may never know but meaning none the less.
I also find it comforting that God is in control in my prayer life. I can’t fathom how God people can pray to a God who is not in control of a situation (i.e. open theism) or is not powerful enough to enact change (deism). But the God of the Bible is in control of everything, even down to the hairs on our head, and is powerful enough to enact change even on a cellular level. So when I pray for God to heal my dad I pray knowing he is in control and he is powerful enough to heal if he chooses to do so.
One of the great things we need to preach as pastors is God being in control of all things especially suffering. This is a very hard truth to grasp but one when meditated on I have found comfort in.