God's Great And Eternal Purposes In Suffering

Many parents are caught up in the causes of their child’s death. Some parents are angry about any of the perceived causes of their child’s death, even themselves. Other parents become despondent over the seeming absurdity and meaninglessness of their child’s death. By focusing on the causes of our child’s death, we become caught in an endless cycle of anger, frustration, and discontentment. Even if we were assured of the human cause of our child’s death, we would not necessarily believe, or be assured, that any good and useful purpose of our child’s death.

Jesus taught that we should focus on the purposes that God is accomplishing through suffering such as the death of our child, and not focus on the causes of the suffering. In the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus and his disciples come across a man who had been blind from birth. There, Jesus is asked why this particular man was born blind. Was the man’s blindness caused by the sin of the man’s parents or the man’s own sin? Jesus takes the opportunity to confront the question of why God allows suffering in the world. Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3. Jesus then proceeded to demonstrate His authority over blindness, health, and life itself by immediately healing the man’s blindness. John 9:4. God purposed the man’s blindness from birth in order to provide Jesus, at that very moment, the opportunity to powerfully demonstrate for all of human history His healing power.

Jesus is telling us, as grieving parents, to focus not on how our child died, but on what great and worthy purposes God has done and will do through the infirmity of our own suffering. Of this passage, John Piper says, “The meaning of Jesus [in this passage] is not obscure. He is saying to the disciples: Turn away from your fixation on causality as the decisive explanation of suffering. And turn away from any surrender to futility, or absurdity, or chaos, or meaninglessness. And turn to the purposes and plans of God. There is no child and no suffering outside God’s purposes.” John Piper, Why Was this Child Born Blind, Sermon from May 21, 2011, www.desiringgod.org

If you have lost a child in death, you can trust that God is not punishing you for some sin in the past or some failure on your part to adequately care for your child. Just as the man born blind was not punished for the sins of his parents, so also your child did not die because of your past. Moreover, there is nothing that you could have done to have prevented your child’s death. The author and sustainer of the entire universe purposed that your child should live only as long as he or she lived, not a moment more, not a moment less. We can be assured that God will accomplish his purposes through our child’s death, and that we were mere instruments to accomplish those purposes.

Instead of focusing on the causes of how our child died, Jesus calls us to live in faith, that God is accomplishing His predesigned purposes through our child’s short life and death. As clearly demonstrated by Jesus, we can rest in the assurance that God is, even through this most difficult times of our life, bringing purpose to our lives by glorifying God in a manner that is, ultimately, for our own good. In the meantime, we can live in faith, being watchful for God uses our sufferings to God’s glory and for our good.

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