Is God Responsible for the Trouble in Your Life?, Part 3: He’d Better Be!

Written by Mark Farnham

On February 9, 2011

The third and final answer to the question of whether God is responsible for my troubles is one many believers don’t like to consider—that God providentially ordains trials, troubles, suffering, sickness, and even death according to his divine decrees for my life. In this scenario God brings troubles into my life because he knows the future perfectly, and he knows that troubles in the life of the believer will ultimately bring fruit:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:11)

The problem with this answer for many Christians is they wrestle with how God can be good if he ordains trouble and suffering. A God who ordains and decrees suffering does not seem to be just, loving, compassionate, merciful, good or kind. In order to preserve these attributes of God, the doubting Christian may be tempted to remove culpability from God by removing his responsibility for initiating troubles. But this would be a big mistake.

God is sovereign and whatever he does is good and just, whether we think so or not. We must remember the declarations of God’s sovereignty and our absolute submission in Scripture in the metaphor of the Potter and the clay:

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand (Is. 64:8)

“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel (Jer. 18:6).

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Rom. 9:19-21)

These passages teach a truth that goes down sideways for many of us: God can do what he wants, and we can’t question him. The truth is, we don’t like to say God is responsible for trouble, not just to protect God from accusations of being unloving, but also because by doing so, we negate our right to criticize what God decides to do with our lives. We simply do not like to cede to God that much control of our lives. We are like Adam and Eve, forever believing the lie that we can be like God and decide our own destiny. And we forever suffer for our lack of submission to the trials and troubles God knows we need in our lives.

The biblical answer is that God absolutely IS responsible for the trials, suffering, and trouble in our lives, and what a comfort that is! How is that a comfort? If God were not in control of all things, directing, initiating, and providentially ordaining everything that comes to pass, life would have a certain element of chance to it. If chance played even a miniscule part in the unfolding of events in this life, it would threaten the ability of God to truly be sovereign over all. Chance could emerge and cause God to have to change his mind.

But chance is an illusion, and God is sovereign; and that is the only comfort in my trials, troubles, sickness, discouragement, and so on. That everything that happens to me is omnisciently decreed by a loving God who works all things for my glorification and his own glory means that nothing is without meaning and importance. Every trouble has a purpose, every trial has reason. No tears are wasted, no sorrow pointless. Everything is being used to make me more like Christ.

B. B. Warfield said it best:

It is because we cannot be robbed of God’s providence that we know, amid whatever encircling gloom, that all things shall work together for good to those who love him. It is because we cannot be robbed of God’s providence that we know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ—not tribulation, nor anguish, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword…Were not God’s providence over all, could trouble come without his sending, were Christians the possible prey of this or the other fiendish scheme, when perchance God was musing, or gone aside, or on a journey, or sleeping, what certainty of hope could be ours? “Does God send trouble?” Surely, surely. He and he only. To the sinner in punishment, to his children in chastisement. To suggest that it does not always come from his hands is to take away all our comfort.

“God’s Providence Over All,” in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, (ed. John Meeter; P&R, 2001), 1:110. (emphasis mine)


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