“God’s Hand Is Intimately Mixed Up in Our Troubles”

The title of this blog post was created by David Powlison, a friend and mentor who entered eternal Glory last summer. This statement first appears within the second sentence of the Introduction to David’s book, God’s Grace in Your Suffering. The context is this:

Job, his wife, and his three friends agreed on two things. Our lives are “few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1), and God’s hand is intimately mixed up in our troubles. But strife and perplexity set in among them when they tried to explain exactly how God and troubles connected.

David goes on to mention a few of the ways these three friends argued about the cause of Job’s troubles, which are still ways people argue today. Then he shows how Job’s encounter with his Redeemer changed him forever (Job 42:5).

But (praise God!), “we see even more clearly. From where we stand, we see Jesus Christ. We see more of who the Redeemer is. We see more of how he did it. We say more than Job could say: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). We see. But our lives are still “few of days and full of trouble.”

Three Sweeping Truths

David then gives to us three sweeping truths we need to understand and embrace, in order to experience the fullness of God’s goodness and grace in our suffering.

  1. It is obvious from both Scripture and experience that God never established a no-fly zone keeping all problems away. “He never promises that your life will be safe, easy, peaceful, healthy, and prosperous. On the contrary, you and I are certain to experience danger, hardship, turmoil, ill health, and loss….We cannot read God’s favor or disfavor by assessing how troubled a person’s life is.”
  2. It is obvious from Scripture and experience that we also sample joys and good gifts from God’s hand. “There are no guarantees of any particular earthly good, but all good gifts may be gratefully enjoyed….We cannot read God’s favor or disfavor by assessing how troubled a person’s life is.”
  3. It’s obvious from Scripture–and it can become deeply rooted in experience–that God speaks and acts through affliction. “Suffering is both the acid test and the catalyst [for growing our faith]. It also exposes and destroys counterfeit faith. Afflictions expose illusory hopes invested in imaginary gods. Such disillusionment is a good thing, a severe mercy. The destruction of what is false invites repentance and faith in God as he truly is. Suffering brings a foretaste of the loss of every good thing for those who profess no faith in the one Savior of the world, God’s inexpressible gift, the Lifegiver….We can read God’s favor or disfavor by noticing how a person responds to affliction.”

If you are going through a valley of suffering, or you want to grow in your understanding of God’s good purposes in suffering, I highly recommend you get and read this little book.

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