Yesterday morning I was painting doors. Joe and I were painting our stairwell and upstairs landing and so we also added a fresh coat of paint to the three doors up there.
As the less experienced painter of the two of us, I was tasked with painting the doors.
And while I was in the garage working away on these doors, I put on a sermon. While I would normally blast pop music, I was feeling a little low yesterday and I knew what would help. So I listened to Tim Keller preach about Job.
In that message, he made a striking statement.
“God only allows Satan to do the opposite of what Satan intends.”
This is in the context of suffering. Take Job, for example. Satan comes before God and says, “Hey, look at Job. He only serves you because of all the stuff you gave him. If you took away the stuff, he wouldn’t love you anymore.”
God disagrees, and in his sovereignty, he permits Satan to afflict Job.
And does all Job’s suffering destroy his relationship with God? Just the opposite! Job gets to know God in a more intimate way than ever before. God speaks to him. Furthermore, God continues to use the story of Job to help and comfort millions of suffering believers throughout the ages.
I’m pretty sure Satan wasn’t going for any of that.
Suffering is confusing. That’s why we ask why. It’s hard to understand suffering and evil in light of God’s sovereignty.
But Tim Keller looks at Romans 8:28 and this is his conclusion: not every cloud has a silver lining on this earth, but the suffering God permits has a greater purpose than what Satan has.
This has been a bitter week. We have seen terrible acts of violence and death in Texas and Ohio. We all have our own personal, private suffering that we’re walking through. And well-meaning people will tell you that there must be some greater purpose for it that you’ll be able to see eventually.
But God never guarantees that.
Job never found out why he was suffering. Have you thought about that? We know… but Job didn’t.
And sometimes we need to be okay with not knowing why.
As long as we trust that Someone does know why, and that he is in control, not Satan.
We live in a story filled with pain. Even though there is also great joy, this story hurts. It is filled with confusing circumstances and seemingly senseless suffering.
Tim Keller says, “God doesn’t promise us better life circumstances. He promises us a better life.”
A life marked by trust in God will be better — not easier, not less painful or frustrating. But there will be more peace in the midst of instability and more joy in the midst of suffering.
I want that life.
And I want what that life leads to: unceasing life and light and happiness. The death of death and the permanent end of sorrow and tears and suffering. Our God dwelling with us, and us being his people.
And that’s how the story ends.