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My first question regarding this quote would be: What kind of suffering are we talking about? Because I think you’d probably be able to substantiate some of these claims, others, however, may be a little trickier depending on what exactly is in view. For example, there are multiple places throughout the Bible where it says God’s wrath was kindled. And these instances were often followed by some form of suffering (Num 11:33, 2 Kgs 23:26-27). So, on what authority can one declare that suffering is not wrath? 

 

However, since there is no distinction being put forth in the quote as to what type of hardship it refers, I’ll just address the topic in a more general manner. 


For starters, it is indeed true that God works all things—that would include suffering—together for good (Rom 8:28). And it’s also true that God works all things—-that would include suffering as well—after the counsel of His own will (Eph 1:11). 

 

However, this doesn’t let us off the hook insofar as responsibilities and steps we are to take to avoid these things. Proverbs, for instance, contains multiple warnings against foolishness, along with consequences for not heeding those warnings. These consequences typically involve some form of suffering (1:23-33 as an example). In such cases, we can claim God is sovereign all we want. But the fact remains that if you are foolish, if you fail to heed wise counsel, if you reject God’s wisdom, there will be unpleasant outcomes. And all the platitudes in the world won’t change that. 

 

Uncomfortable Truths

 

Sometimes, hearing these things can make us feel uneasy, resulting in the tendency to want to remove this responsibility from ourselves. So we’d rather talk about Job or the man who was born blind and think of our troubles as unavoidable like theirs were. Which is fine. But the biblical record provides us many other (and arguably, MORE) accounts where the cause of the suffering was a lot less enigmatic. Often, simply being due to disobedience, unbelief, or foolish decision-making. Examples we could start with are Adam and Eve’s exit from the Garden due to their sin.  Or Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of stew (Heb 12:16-17). But then there are instances of much greater magnitude as seen in the children of Israel dying by the hundreds of thousands in the wilderness after complaining (Num 14:28-30). Going into captivity multiple times for sins such as idolatry (see the Prophets in the OT). In the New Testament, the trend continues with Herod being eaten by worms because he did not give God glory (Acts 12:21-23). Ananias and Sapphira dropping dead for lying (Acts 5:1-10). The Corinthians getting sick and dying as a result of abuses during communion (1 Cor 11:28-31). And, of course, the judgments we see in Revelation.

 

Avoid Evil

 

Even in instances where no discernible cause of suffering occurs, we still should not be passive in our attitudes and actions against it. The Bible tells us in Romans 12 to abhor that which is evil. In 1 Thessalonians 5:22 it says to abstain from every form of it. The term, “evil” used, here, is the Greek word, “poneros” and it implies concepts such as annoyances, hardships, sickness, that which is hurtful, disease, calamity, et cetera (more info here). All things that we would typically categorize under the heading of, “suffering” to one degree or another. 

 

So yes, we can say God is sovereign over suffering. But that doesn’t mean we are to take a passive, “whatever will be, will be” posture in these matters. Because He also instructs us to abhor it, abstain from every form of it, provides a biblical record of what often causes it, and ultimately, how to avoid much of it. 

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Separating the Emotion from the Analysis