I see a great deal of human pain, suffering and death on a weekly basis. Often patients or family members ask, “Why is this happening?” My answer, “I do not know, but I can tell you what I do know; there is a great God in heaven who knows everything about you, who is sovereign over His creation, who is with us now and is at work in us and in the world. He empathizes with you, because He became a man in the person of His Son Jesus Christ and died a painful death on a Roman cross in our place for our sins.”
God’s governing activity within His creation is universal. You remember the childhood mealtime prayer, “God is great God is good let us thank Him for our food.”1 God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscience of all that is happening within His creation.
Besides being great, God is also good; He is gracious, compassionate, and patient. Both believers and the unbelievers alike benefit from the benevolent goodness of God. Jesus said of the Father, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Mat.5:45b) To a person living in an agrarian culture like the one Jesus was speaking too, the sun and the rain are both good.
God works in His providential governance for good. Romans 8:28 says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” But this is connected to God’s purpose which is indicated in Romans 8:29, “to become conformed to the image of His Son.” This at times may seem painful, but it is for good because it is conforming us into the image of His Son.
One of my favorite theologians is Irenaeus of Lyons who referred to God as a Shepherd who guides His sheep with His two hands; His word and His Spirit. God has a personal concern about those who are His, in Luke 15 and John 10 He calls them His Sheep and He is the good Shepherd.
God is active all the time. God is using the very things that we do, or others do for His purpose. We may not even know that this is occurring at the time, but everything that happens has the purpose of good as the ultimate goal; conforming us into the image of His Son.
God is sovereign in His governance. We cannot nor should not dictate to God what He should do or how He should go about doing it. We may not understand and may think that things would be better done in another way, but we must remember that we are not God. His purpose is to conform His people into the image of His Son.
While everything is under God’s sovereignty not everything is necessarily good. Human sin and natural evils are at work in this world; sometimes God prevents evil, but sometimes He permits it or even directs it or limits it; remember that God’s purpose is for His glory and to conform us into the image of His Son.
1 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 384.