There is arguably no more significant issue outside of salvation that garners the great discussion than the debate on suffering and the sovereignty of God. The question is often posed as to if God is so powerful and loving, why is there evil and suffering in the world. As believers, we are called to be able to respond to such questions. While it is perhaps somewhat outside of our finite understanding to grasp all of God’s ways and purposes, we are not left without guidance regarding suffering and the sovereignty of God. John Currid in his helpful book Why Do I Suffer?: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God takes a look at what Scripture has to say regarding this important issue.
Currid divides his book into four sections with the first dealing with God and calamity, the second part discussing why Christians suffer, the third part engaging why unbelievers endure hardship, and the final section providing salient words regarding what we should do when suffering and hard times come our way. As Currid rightly notes in the preface, “There is a great mystery to human suffering.” Theologians, philosophers, and humanity, in general, have long pondered why trouble takes place. Is it the act of the gods in response to the disobedience of their worshipers and thus should these entities be appeased to bring an end to suffering? Is God incapable of dealing with suffering, is He simply taking a hands-off approach or is suffering a part of the current construct as we move towards a place of restoration and redemption?
There are some who aver bad things happen due to random chance. Currid rightly rejects such a notion, stating that if that perception were true, “chaos is a powerful force that exists and acts independently of God.” For the believer, that approach is untenable, especially since Scripture declares God as being Creator and sustaining all that takes place in the universe. There is nothing outside His divine control. Currid responds to the idea of chance by affirming the biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty. He aptly comments, “The Bible depicts that everything that happens in heaven and on earth occurs because of God’s decree, will, and purpose” and this includes what we term and view as suffering.
This brings into play then the paradoxical relationship that seems to exist between God’s sovereignty and the responsibility man has for the entrance and continued sin in the world. How can both co-exist? Currid approaches this important question by digging right into Scripture, admitting the mystery that surrounds such a doctrine, yet also noting the reality that God is sovereign and man is responsible for sin. An important theological term called God’s permissive will or decree is key to this issue. Currid elaborates as to what that principle is all about, rightly noting “God is not the author or originator of sin and its subsequent suffering. Yet, God has foreordained them because he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass…thus, sin and suffering do not exist apart from divine control and purpose.” Such statements may cause one’s head to spin, but Currid further explains what his statements means in the remainder of the book as he discusses why suffering happens to believers and unbelievers.
Building on the necessary foundation of God’s sovereignty as demonstrated in Scripture, Currid provides the reader with some excellent discussion on why believers and unbelievers suffer. Since God is sovereign, there must be a reason why bad things happen. Currid rightly explains that suffering brings the believer to their knees in prayer. Scripture is full of examples of the righteous being afflicted and turning to God. Their suffering was not always lifted as seen for instance in the case of Job; however, the fervent prayers of a righteous man avail much with that availing usually resulting in a closer relationship with God.
Times of affliction should also drive the believer to the pages of Scripture. Currid saliently notes, “When in trouble, the Christian retires to the Scriptures. He reads it, ponders it, and indeed struggles with it.” Suffering also presents the reality that things are not as they should be and thus times of trial help the believer focus on the day when all things are made new. Currid also notes that suffering brings humility, discipline, instruction, restoration, and refinement towards a place where we become more like Christ. God often uses times of suffering to refine His people.
Unbelievers also endure times of suffering. Currid provides a number of reasons why God uses suffering in the life of the unbeliever. These include what is essentially a wake-up call. Such events are noted in a number of great men of the faith to include John Newton and Robert Murray McCheyne. Currid provides a quick examination of those men’s lives and how God used a time of suffering to woo them to Him. At some point, unbelievers will endure eternal, everlasting suffering due to their unbelief. I was pleased to see Currid affirm the biblical doctrine of everlasting punishment.
I think the most helpful portion of this book is the final section where Currid provides the reader with how to approach times of suffering. He rightly notes that as believers, we should expect suffering. He states, “God’s Word tells us that those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be a target of afflictions and will suffer more greatly than most people.” I fully appreciated Currid’s statement that “Present pain and suffering are nothing compared to the glory that Crist has bought and secured for us in heaven.” When we endure trials, we can rest assured God is in control, things are taking place for a purpose, and death, sin, and suffering will one day be eternally dealt with.
I highly recommend this book to all believers. It is replete with sound biblical exegesis. Currid does an excellent job of affirming God’s sovereignty and noting the reasons Scripture gives as to why suffering occurs. Those desiring to develop a solid theodicy or responses to this issue will find Currid’s treatment of the subject quite helpful.
This book is available for purchase from Christian Focus Publications by clicking here.
I received this book for free from Christian Focus Publications for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”