Can God Be Both Loving and in Control? (Lamentations 3:31-33)
For the LORD will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. —Lamentations 3:31-33
As I write this, the devastation and death toll from the Nepal earthquake is still not completely known. Last week, I met a young couple with four children, all with disabilities, and the wife lives with chronic physical pain. I learned recently of a couple from my church who has divorced. The pain in this sin-sick world is without end.
So, you might be tempted to conclude that God must not be in control or not be loving because he would not let these things happen, especially to those he has called into saving faith.
Don’t believe that statement; it isn’t biblical and it isn’t true.
Lamentations 3:32 is just one of many places where God clearly states that he causes hard things in people’s lives. And the other places are equally without equivocation or embarrassment on God’s part: I form light and create darkness, I make well being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:7).
And he is loving. For the first 30 years of my life, I happily lived under the ‘well being’ portion of Isaiah 45:7. There had been heartache and hardship, some of which I had termed ‘severe,’ but all within reason. My Christianity was basically a lighter version of the prosperity ‘gospel.’ As long as I behaved myself, God would bless.
With the birth of my son and his unexpected multiple disabilities and medical issues, I was confronted for the first time with true suffering. I concluded that God could not be loving, so I rejected God and the people of God, and separated from God’s church with no intention of returning.
But that was Satan’s plan for my life and not God’s. There was a great and loving purpose I could not initially see. God was awakening me from the stupor of middle-class American comfort and prosperity. I was addicted to the sins of ease and the approval of others. Even my choice of churches was more about image than it was about being drawn to the beauty of God’s Word being preached and taught.
In other words, I was dead and happily on my way to hell until God kindly introduced lifelong disability into my family to show me how proud and sinful I was. Until I was truly desperate and without answers, I had no need of a savior.
Thus, when seen rightly through the lens of the Bible, God did not grieve me with a son who will always experience this world in ways that most people find horrifying. My first assessment of my son’s worth and of God’s love was entirely wrong. Rather, God lovingly gave me a son who bears his image, albeit in a very different physical package, to drive me to my knees and to help me truly see how incredible it is that Jesus came to take the wrath of God for my sin. The suffering that comes with my son’s disabilities remains in this present world, and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) provides daily help. He is clearly both in control and loving to provide such a rescue from sin and such persistent help and hope.
Christian, do not believe the lie of this culture and our satanic enemies and your own sinful will when suffering comes. Cling to the truth of Lamentations 3:31-33! In your suffering he offers something so much better—more of himself, for eternity.
In what ways has God shown you the desperate need you have for Him?
Can you think of a time when you needed reassurance of God’s faithfulness? What means did God use to reassure you?
Look up the words “suffer” or “suffering” in a Bible concordance. Make a list of some of the verses you find (especially in the New Testament letters of the Apostles Peter and Paul) that will equip and strengthen you for times of suffering in your life.