God is love. He would never intentionally bring pain and suffering into my life. Therefore, the grief that I experience is from some impersonal force—like fate— something random and out of control. It certainly cannot be from God. He is too good to let me suffer.
Many professing Christians reason this way.
But the Bible clearly teaches that God is both infinitely good and in control of all creation—even the evil in the world. Though He is not the author of evil, He is Ruler over it, as the book of Job illustrates. And because God is in control of all things, we can have hope and turn to Him for mercy and grace in the face of overwhelming circumstances.
In Lamentations 2:1-22, Jeremiah did not stop with simply recognizing that the Lord was the One who was behind Judah’s horrifying circumstances. To simply say, “God did this,” and then stop would leave God’s people to dangle over the precipice of bitterness and despair. It would inevitably lead to hardness of heart and hopelessness. Instead, as pastor-poet, Jeremiah moved on to shepherd the severely disciplined nation and thus minister a measure of comfort and hope to them.
We, like Jeremiah, must live with the temporal consequences of sin in a fallen world. But how do we deal with the devastation? We must learn to exercise biblical faith to see our painful circumstances as God’s discipline or training rather than as cards dealt out by blind fate (Hebrews 12:5–11).
However, while we are in the valley of affliction, we don’t always see it this way. When we feel God’s heavy hand upon us and day by day face the grievous consequences of our sins, we feel His anger. Deep down we know that He is not pleased. If our chastening is the result of our sin, then we are right to think this way. And it would be wrong for us to dismiss suffering and affliction as an impersonal event that comes upon us without careful thought from God.
When we think about the anger of God, however, we must not equate it with our own expressions of this emotion. Our anger is almost always sinful and is usually sudden or volcanic in nature. But God’s anger is different. It is never out of control. Walter Kaiser describes it this way:
God’s anger is never explosive, unreasonable or unexplainable. It is rather His firm expression of real displeasure with our wickedness and sin. Even in God it is never a force or a ruling passion; rather, it is always an instrument of His will. And His anger has not, thereby, shut off his compassion to us (Psalm 77:9). God’s anger marks the end of indifference. He cannot and will not remain neutral and impartial in the presence of continued sin.
God’s anger “marks the end of indifference.” It marks the end of His patience with sinners, and ironically, it also signals the opening of the door to experiencing His mercy. This is the discipleship of Jeremiah—who spoke with compassion yet clarity and realism and counseled his people toward a relentless pursuit of the Lord through their pain.
[This post is adapted from God’s Mercy In Our Suffering, a Bible study and counseling guide through the book of Lamentations. Available from the publisher, Kress Biblical Resources, as well as ChristianBook.com and Amazon.