See Brian H. Cosby, Suffering and Sovereignty: John Flavel and the Puritans on Afflictive Providence (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012). He has written over a dozen books, including Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible (David C Cook). I begin questioning God: How could you let this happen? We cannot handle the harsh reality of suffering, so we hide behind the virtual walls of social media, where we pretend our hearts are safe from rejection, grief, and the evil “out there.” Yet all the while you and I know it’s there, it’s real, and it’s painful.  Flavel, The Touchstone of Sincerity, 5:583. When afflictions press against a believer, he or she may see his or her true inclinations, which are often full of sin. One of the greatest Puritan expositors of a theology of suffering was John Flavel (c.1630-1691) of Dartmouth. As we have seen, God is both completely good and completely sovereign over all things, all events, and all suff ering. A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Suffering: How God Shapes Us through Pain and Tragedy, Your Neighbor’s New Creed: ‘In This House, We Believe . Importantly, as we read Scripture, we find that God is not surprised by suffering and evil, nor has he lost control of his creation. She sees it as completely against God’s loving character — hurtful at best, and vindictive at worst. Timing is the Creator’s business. If you’ve trusted in Christ as the Savior and Lord of your life, you can rest in the truth that your afflictions and sufferings come to you for your ultimate good and his ultimate glory. Affliction “drives them nearer to God, makes them see the necessity of the life of faith, with multitudes of other benefits.” Turning to the Word for communing with God is especially important during times of suffering. In doing so, though, we are freed to refocus our primary love on him alone. Because many of his writings deal directly with the theme of suffering and sovereignty and because of his own experience with it, Flavel is a significant resource for understanding a puritan theology of human suffering and divine sovereignty. 27:17). But no Arminian I know would say that all suffering is designed and ordained by God.  Flavel, Navigation Spiritualized, 5:252. It is designed to build our trust in the Almighty, but suffering requires the right response if it is to be successful in accomplishing God’s purposes. Does God Ordain Domestic Violence? In the seventh reason that God ordains suffering—to bear witness to a watching world—Flavel understands a two-fold interrelated witness. When affliction falls on a community of believers, they are knit together more tightly. When suffering falls on a church—whether through illness or persecution—“Christ’s summer friends” flee, as the Puritan John Flavel put it. The believer’s own endurance under trial serves as a shining public witness to the truth of God’s Word. Suffering, then, is the breeding ground of spiritual fruit so that God, as it were, plants the believer into the soil of suffering to produce godliness. Editors’ note: This excerpt is adapted from Brian Cosby’s new book, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Suffering: How God Shapes Us through Pain and Tragedy (Christian Focus, 2015). No. And it will hurt. Not only does Christ know and understand the affliction of the elect, the elect can, in a mystical sense, commune with Christ because he suffered for them. All other ground is sinking sand. The answer is simultaneously an emphatic “Yes” and “No!” “Yes,” God is sovereign over all evil in the world in that He ordained all the actions of all fallen Angels and men; yet, He does not ordain the actions of fallen Angels and men as evil–though he ordained that they should become evil–but “for the sake of the good that He causes to arise from the sinfulness thereof.” This does not mean that people who are suffering are always the cause of their own suffering; often people suffer because of the sins of others. 3:20). To her, the Calvinist view that God has ordained all our suffering is inhumane. As the Lord of true comfort, we are to see our pain as “preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. We need to understand this so our feet land on the solid foundation of God’s Word and the God of that Word—and there find understanding and hope.  John Flavel, A Token for Mourners in The Works of John Flavel, 6 Vols. When the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin, he responded with Psalm 51. Yes, he ordains and allows it, but he does not enjoy it. Because of verses like Psalm 31:3-5, “For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. God uses suffering to expose the sin that clings so closely to our hearts. First, there is a witness to the reality of the gospel in the believer’s life and its call to an unbelieving world to repent and believe in Christ for salvation. We’ve lost an understanding of the reality of suffering as a consequence of the fall and neglected to see how God overrules evil for his greater purposes. Is this the time?” 7-8 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time.  Flavel, The Touchstone of Sincerity, 5:583. 9:7; Zech. God the Father wills the suffering of God the Son. Uncommon Zeal: George Whitefield at 250 Years. 1:3–5).  Flavel, Preparation for Sufferings, 6:9-10. Copyright © 2021 The Gospel Coalition, INC. All Rights Reserved. Sorrow and Suffering Can We Handle Tribulation In An Advantageous Way? Dr. Brian Cosby is senior minister of Wayside Presbyterian Church (PCA) on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, visiting professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta, and serves as editorial director of the Gospel Reformation Network. Your question is exactly the same one that's asked in Psalm 73: I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Affiliate disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases on Amazon.com. He writes, “I heartily wish that these searching afflictions may make the more satisfying discoveries; that you may now see more of the evil of sin, the vanity of the creature, and the fulness of Christ, than ever you yet saw. It is His privilege as Almighty God to do so.  Flavel, Preparation for Sufferings, 6:11. Under the pressure of the sins of the world, Jesus seemed to waver. The effect is seen, therefore, in how one responds to suffering, as a sort of “test.” Flavel understands suffering to clear out the corruptions of the heart so as to leave it more faithful and sincere unto God. He will also use his church to spur his people on and be the context in which iron sharpens iron (Prov. 1:6).  God also ordains suffering so as to encourage the believer in Christ to cultivate greater fellowship with himself through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  Flavel, Navigation Spiritualized, 5:251. Flavel sees a direct relationship between the sufferings experienced by Christ—the benefits of which are represented and sealed in the Lord’s Supper to the believer by faith—and the sufferings experienced by the Christian. 12:2), and will complete the good work he began in us (Phil. He can ordain whomever He wants for He is a sovereign God. Second, suffering is addressed by our saving God in the cross and empty tomb of Jesus.  Flavel, The Touchstone of Sincerity, 5:583. God ordains suffering to loosen the believer’s grip on temporal and earthly things: “Be careful to…mortify your inordinate affections to earthly things.” Rather, “Exercise heavenly mindedness, and keep your hearts upon things eternal, under all the providences with which the Lord exercises you in this world.”, God has “blessed crosses to mortify corruption…and to wean us from the world!” Similarly, “Sanctified afflictions discover the emptiness and vanity of the creature.” Or, to put it another way, “Thy affliction is a fair class to discover [the creature’s vanity]; for the vanity of the creature is never so effectually and sensibly discovered, as in our own experience of it.”, God ordains suffering to produce a sincere faith in the believer, devoid of hypocrisy. How does the knowledge of God-ordained suffering bring us, His children, comfort? It is worth noting that all rulers are accountable to God for their actions. The Most Popular Porn Site Has Biggest Scandal to Date. When I’ve faced suffering, I’ve responded with anger. Instead, everything is being worked out according to his providential purposes (e.g. The Bible affirms that God is sovereign over the storms of this life and that he has good in store for his people in their suffering. I think what we are seeing is that Calvinists do not agree among themselves about God’s role in suffering.  Flavel, Preparation for Sufferings, 6:9. 2:11; Heb. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor. This is the good for which God has ordained evil. Our frequent trials prove our hope and faith is not in vain, and serve as a platform to showcase gospel hope. In our pain, we long to know why God allows grief and hardship into our lives.  Some of this material is adapted from Brian Cosby, “Why Does God Ordain Suffering? God does not explicitly say why He allows evil men to rule. If you’ve trusted in Christ as the Savior and Lord of your life, you can rest in the truth that your afflictions and sufferings come to you for your ultimate good and his ultimate glory. Why Does God Allow His People To Suffer? Rather it was so that “the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Here’s what Joseph said to his brothers about their evil actions against him — However, for this present time, we must face the undeniable fact that people, including Believers in the Messiah, do suffer. Shalom There is coming a time when all sorrow, tears, pain and death will pass away (Rev 21:4). 4:15), also did not sin at that tense moment. If we’re prone to love something in this world—house, spouse, children, job—more than God, he may sometimes remove the idol. [Therefore] even the free actions of men are subject to God's disposal." He has created those beings with the awful gift of freedom of choice. Maybe you’re in the throes of affliction, or maybe you’re trying to minister to someone who is. But none of these texts demonstrate that all sinful choices are ordained by God, or get anywhere near doing so. Our culture, unfortunately, strives to deny the reality of suffering and death, and we continually long to drink from the fountain of youth—expressed in our endless pursuit of Botox treatments, anti-aging cream, cosmetic surgeries, and hair dyes. Suffering is the result of sin in the world, and God hates suffering so much that one day he will destroy it. Flavel believed that it is the Christian’s duty to develop and cultivate a deeper and more meaningful relationship and fellowship with God—especially in times of suffering. Sometimes, God will simply remove those treasures for our greater good; it’s better to lose an eye than for your whole body to land in hell (Matt. Not only does sin need to be removed, it also needs to be replaced by those things that are pleasing to God. Under the rod of affliction we’re given unique opportunity to bear witness to the gospel’s power in our lives—which effectively calls others to repent and believe. Until then, ask Him to show you how He may be using suffering for your good. Are Rewards a Valid Motivation for Sanctification? And though suffering is painful and we should do whatever we can to avoid causing it, God can even use suffering to produce good. Why does God allow his people to suffer while worldly people prosper? For a more extensive survey of these five points, see Cosby’s book Suffering and Sovereignty: John Flavel and the Puritans on Afflictive Providence (Reformation Heritage, 2012). God reacts to our suffering but never causes it. He explains, “The design and aim of these afflictive providences, is to purge and cleanse them from that pollution into which temptations have plunged them.”.  Flavel, Preparation for Sufferings, 6:64. The answer that Jesus gives assumes that God did ordain this man’s suffering, but not because of this man’s sin or because of anyone else’s sin. God can and does ordain governments as well as rulers of those governments. How does God “ordain” the good events without “ordaining” the evil ones that must occur in advance? Paul declares that God “comforts us in all our afflictions,” adding: “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Cor. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968), 5:605-6. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. God also uses suffering is to refine us, as fire refines gold by burning away the impurities (Jer. Jesus, who always did the Father’s will, is our perfect example (John 4:34; Heb. Edwards ponders that someone might say that only the sufferings of Christ were planned by God, not the sins against him, to which he responds, "I answer, [the sufferings] could not come to pass but by sin. 3:3). Christ, he explains, “looks down from heaven upon all my afflictions, and understands them more fully that I that feel them.” And one of the best expressions of the believer’s union and communion with Christ comes through the experience of suffering. King David saw a woman bathing, sent for her, slept with her, then had her husband killed. He writes, “By exposing his people to such grievous sufferings, he gives a fit opportunity to manifest the glory of his power…and of his wisdom.” Suffering reveals the glory of God’s manifold attributes, which is viewed by faith individually through particular afflictions. 2. Acts 1:6-14 6 When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the monarchy to Israel now? . Brian Cosby (PhD, Australian College of Theology) serves as senior pastor of Wayside Presbyterian Church (PCA) on Signal Mountain, Tennessee, and a visiting professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, Atlanta. Lamentations 3 and Job 2 demonstrate that the destruction of Jerusalem and the suffering of Job were ordained by God, without this removing the moral accountability of the evil perpetrators: Babylon and Satan, respectively. 12:6). Don’t Outsource It. He does not tempt the men to sin; he does not influence them to sin. 2 …  See Brian H. Cosby, John Flavel: Puritan Life and Thoughts in Stuart England (Lanham, UK: Lexington Books, 2014). Someone Will Catechize Your Kids in 2021. The Puritan Thomas Brooks puts it this way: God takes no delight to afflict his children; it goes against the grain of his heart. Not only was the serpent there to cause havoc, he was only able to function within the environment God created - centred on the two trees! STH’s Steven Sandage studies religious “myths” that justify abuse of women. A plunge into a season of affliction can reveal these. God doesn’t just help mortify our sin, though; he also cultivates godliness whereby we’re conformed increasingly into Christ’s image. 13:9; Mal. But it cannot be accurately said that EVERY government in the history of this world was ordained by God. Flavel understood that one of the reasons that God ordains suffering is to reveal his own attributes and character, not objectively, but experientially to the suffering believer. God uses the suffering of his people to display his grace in securing their salvation. Finally, God ordains suffering for the Christian so that he or she may commune with Christ, the greatest sufferer, who suffered on his or her account. Not only does Christ know and understand the affliction of the elect, the elect can—in a mystical sense—commune with Christ because he suffered for them. One of the great tragedies of the American church is that we’ve lost a biblical theology of suffering—one that centers on the glory, goodness, and sovereignty of God. All things work together for the ultimate good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Rom. For contempt and disgrace was one thing he was to suffer. Are there areas of dishonesty or insincerity in your heart? God will lay “some strong afflictions on the body, to prevent a worse evil.” Flavel contends, too, that God ordains suffering to mortify sin. 11:13) here on earth, journeying toward the ultimate city. 8:29). They not only tasted some of the most bitter afflictions to befall humanity, but also carefully applied the balm of gospel promise to those who would receive it by faith.. God is a just and holy God and will punish all evil. They are … But let’s look at four specific biblical reasons why God ordains suffering for his people. .’. As those “frequent trials of grace” proved that the Christian faith is “the greatest reality in the world,” so also do they “exhibit a full and living testimony against the atheism of the world.” By this, Flavel understands that judgment remains upon the unbeliever. This second reality asserts something remarkable: when God allowed sin to enter this world, even he was affected. In our suffering, we are given the opportunity to discover the sincerity of our love, hope, and faith in God. 13:5). When believers please God by faith-filled works, they are filled with happiness and bring glory to God. May we rest in the surety of his covenant promise that, even amid suffering and trial, he will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. He is weaning us from a love of this world, transforming us by the renewing of our minds (Rom.  Flavel, The Touchstone of Sincerity, 5:579-83. Progressivism, Theological Liberalism, & the Gay Pastor, Thomas Brooks on the Necessity & Importance of Gospel Preaching. 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