God, my loving Savior sends them…

christ-on-crossOften the topic of how God governs all things comes up in parish life during suffering and struggles.  Questions will arise about God being the cause of something (sin is the cause of this damned mess), allowing something (as if He is distant from things and is often merely wordplay), or even sending something.  This is of course a difficult topic, and it deserves much attention in the lives of Christians who indeed will suffer in this life.

Recently I had a opportunity to sing and meditate upon one of my favorite hymns, “Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me” (LSB 756, but if you want a longer version check out TLH, although an even older English version includes even more stanzas to it [truncation of hymns is bad hymnal practice and often reflects a desire to avoid the hard stuff].  There are several points in the hymn where Gerhardt lays even sadness and suffering squarely at God’s feet as the one who sends them.

Is God sending sadness or suffering such horrible news?  From one point, suffering sucks.  Life in a fallen world is not fun, no matter how much we think we have advanced or progressed, in the end the fallen world catches up with us and grabs hold of us.  Sometimes it is at death, more than often it is during a time of great trial or suffering.  Then all of the fake gods have to move aside, all of the petty idolatries we have set up for ourselves show their powerlessness to maintain our good life.  At that point it is only God and us who are left and it appears we will not last long.  So what is wrong with saying that God sent suffering?

Nothing.  I don’t want to endure suffering that happens by chance or by some distant God allowing it and watching on.  I don’t want the cliche which tries to paint a rosy picture in a fallen world.  I don’t want a theoretical or philosophy daydream of a god.  I don’t want anything other than the God who I know, or more importantly Who knows me.  He has to be the one to lay down a heavy cross or burden upon me.  Why?  Because I know that God, for He has revealed Himself to me as a God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who is slow to anger, merciful, compassionate, abounding in steadfast love – the God who in the Son gave Himself up for my temporal and eternal benefit.  The God I want pushing down on my flesh is the very same one who gave up His flesh for me and still feeds the same along with His blood to me each week.  The God I want sending the waters over every last bridge and breaking the dams in my life has to be the very same God who baptized me and claimed me as His own.  The God I want to receive a cross from has to be the One who endured the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father.  The God I want to hear words of sorrow from is the God who has spoken to us by His Son, a man of sorrows and well knowing of grief.  This God is with me, the God named Immanuel (God with us), Jesus.

If my suffering is not from Him, that same God who baptizes, preaches, teaches, and feeds – then who can know my suffering or bring relief to it?  If it is by chance, then by chance I will come out of this.  If it is only allowed by God, then I suppose maybe He will allow relief?  If it is sent by Him – the very God of very God who cared for my life and well-being more than anyone else ever could, then I suppose there is something greater to it.  If it is sent by THAT God, then it can be somehow good (What God ordains is always good).  This is a matter of faith, of trust – but there is no one except the Triune God who deserves such trust, even when He sends sadness.

So as you experience suffering, trial, sadness, loss, and all of the various other crosses which come in this life take heart – God your loving Savior sends them.  He has been faithful to you for all of your days up to now, and He will not leave you now either.






God, my loving Savior sends them… — 7 Comments

  1. Hello. I am a new Lutheran (convert from Evangelicalism) and I’ve been reading the articles of this website for the past few months. This website has been very helpful with increasing my understanding of Lutheran doctrine and theology, and I would like to thank you and the other authors of this website for that.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I am a little uneasy with the notion that God ordains all things, even suffering. Now, there are two types of suffering: one that results from living in a fallen world that has natural disasters, disease, pain, and other natural things; and one that results from the consequences of sin (for example, being the victim of theft, adultery, or violence). Now, I have no problem with the idea of God ordaining natural disasters, given that God created the world and is in control of it. However, for God to ordain suffering as the result of others’ sin against us logically follows that God ordained the sin. The problem, though, is that when we sin, we are not following God’s will, since it is God’s will that we obey the Law at all times (even though we always fail at this because we are sinners). So how could sin be outside God’s will, but the consequences of that sin be within? This is the core problem that I have with Calvinism; my understanding of Calvinism is that God predestines everything and that everything that has ever happened was ordained by God. But that would mean plenty of sinful things, such as the Holocaust (I’m sorry for Godwinning this thread already) and Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”, were preordained by God, which I have a difficult time believing.

  2. @Michael #1
    Michael – glad you are reading the site and getting some good from it.
    With regard to your question, I think it best to think of Christ, specifically His crucifixion. Was he being sinned against? Yes. But God was doing it in order to bring about the greatest good.
    If you are coming from evangelicalism, I can understand the difficulty with which the mind struggles with these things as evangelical theology often gets wrapped up in either the emotions or rational/logical thought.
    The questions you ask are good and we do not have a good rational explanation for it all from Scripture so we let the tension stand, looking to Christ as God’s gracious revelation to us.
    I hope that helps.

  3. Read Job lately, Pr. Scheer?

    Satan came around and speculated about what Job would do under adversity.
    God allowed Satan to create some; he didn’t sent him to do it. IMO, of course.

    Christ, being God, participated in that decision.
    He participated in the decision to allow Himself to be crucified.
    God didn’t “sin against Him” (how could God sin against Himself?)
    Man sinned against God and God took the punishment on Himself, in the person of His Son.

    N.B. I am not now, nor have I ever been a Calvinist.

  4. I also see a big difference between God allowing and indeed working for good through (and in spite of) the results of sin, and the idea of Him actually causing the results of sin–namely, war, disease, famine, evil, pain, death, etc.

  5. @helen #3
    I think I will let Job speak for himself as to who he by faith credited with his suffering:
    Job 1:21-22
    And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
    In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

    Or as Luther puts it in his table talk:
    “The devil is ever God’s ape”

    Chemnitz squarely places the devil among creatures which are under God.

    I apologize that my wording in my comment above that it could be read that I said God sinned against Jesus. I meant that men sinned against him.

    Now the logical questions which follow these statements are proof that we run to Christ when these things come up.

  6. “truncation of hymns is bad hymnal practice and often reflects a desire to avoid the hard stuff”
    Amen Pastor, (and sorry in advance for the off-subject comment.)

    3. The Church shall never perish!
    Her dear Lord, to defend,
    To guide, sustain, and cherish,
    Is with her to the end.
    Though there be those that hate her.
    False sons within her pale,
    Against both foe and traitor
    She ever shall prevail

  7. It is remarkable that God in His answer to Job never defends Himself by pointing out that He had nothing to do with the whole thing, or that He only played a minor role.

    But then again, how could He? Would He not only leave Himself open to the charge that He could have prevented it, and chose not to?

    And even worse: Would He not have left the door open for the dreadful teaching, which I know so well from the old country, that God has nothing to do with what actually happens in this world, rather, it is all determined by either the devil or people or blind forces of nature, or any combination thereof – and all God can do is run around and try to clean up after whoever is really in power, and try to make something good out of what whoever is really in power has decided and done – and when we say that God is Almighty, it only means that He happens to be pretty good at cleaning up after whoever is really in power.

    So pathetic.

    The mystery we are looking into here is that of the omnipotence of God in relation to contingency and the free will of man.

    And what Holy Scripture presents us with here is a paradox; the paradox of the “hidden God”, as Luther wrote about it in “On the Bondage of the will”.

    Very illustrative is the Genesis account of the life of Joseph.
    His brothers meant evil and did evil in selling him into slavery. And they did it, out of their own evil intentions. And yet, in following their evil intentions, and doing evil, they were bringing to completion what was God’s good intention all along. See Genesis 45:8; 50:20.

    In the concluding chapters of the Book of Job once does get the impression that the devil in his evil intention has only been an instrument for what was always the intention of God, namely to lead Job to the confession: “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” Job 42:2.

    The relation of God’s hidden workings to His revealed will is similar to the relation between Him doing His alien work of judging and condemning through the Law in order to get to His proper work of rescuing and restoring through the Gospel.

    And what it all points to is the comfort Pastor Scheer presented in the original posting:
    Come what may, it comes to me from those hands that were pierced for me.

    “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32

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