The Permissive & Prohibitive Sovereignty of God In Our Suffering (What Is, What Is Not, What Will Be)

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Job which describes the suffering he endured and the struggle and conflict that came with it. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twenty through twenty-two of this Old Testament Book. WOUNDED IN THE HOUSE OF MY FRIENDS! HURT BY THOSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT HEALING! CONDEMNED BY THOSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT COMFORT! SCORNED BY THOSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT STRENGTH! AFFLICTED BY THOSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT AFFECTION! CRITICIZED BY THOSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BROUGHT CARE AND CONCERN! HARASSED BY THOSE WHO SHOULD HAVE HELPED! IN THE COMPANY OF FRIENDS AND YET COMPLETELY ALONE! “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you. But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such as these?” (Job 12:2-3). “Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it. What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior to you” (Job 13:1-2). “Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God. But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value. O that ye would altogether hold your peace! And it should be your wisdom. Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleading of my lips” (Job 13:3-6). “Will ye speak wickedly for God? And talk deceitfully for him? Will ye accept his person? Will ye contend for God? Is it good that he should search you out? Or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him? He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons. Shall not his excellency make you afraid? And his dread fall upon you?” (Job 13:10-11). “I have heard many such things: Miserable comforters are ye all. Shall vain words have an end? Or what emboldeth thee that thou answerest? I also could speak as ye do: If your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you. But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief” (Job 16:1-5). “Though I speak, my grief is not assuaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased? But now he hath made me weary: thou hast made desolate all my company” (Job 16:6-7). “They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me about the check reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me. God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked. I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark. His archers compass me round about, he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he poureth out my gall upon the ground. He breaketh me with breach upon breath, he runneth upon me like a giant” (Job 16:10-14). “My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God. O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour! When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return” (Job 16:20-22). “How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? These ten times have ye reproached me: Ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me. And be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself. If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me, and plead against me my reproach: know that God hath overthrown me, and hath compasses me with his net” (Job 19:1-6). “He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I intreated him with my mouth. My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children’s sake of mine own body. Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. Have pity on me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me. Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh” (Job 19:13-22).

EXPERTS IN HOLINESS! JUDGES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS! SKILLED IN SUFFERING! HAVE YOU EVEN WALKED THROUGH SUFFERING? WHAT QUALIFIES YOU TO SPEAK AS AN EXPERT? YOUR SILENCE WAS GREATER THAN YOUR VOICE! WHY DO YOU LORD YOURSELF OVER ME? When you come to the Old Testament book of Job you will encounter a book that is not so much based on the suffering of Job but the sovereignty of the living God in the midst of suffering. Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding the entirety of the Old Testament book of Job is the sovereignty of God over suffering and the silence of God in the midst of the suffering. We cannot read the Old Testament book of Job without being first and foremost confronted with the sovereignty of God over suffering, for all the suffering which Job experienced during his life was only made possible because of the hand of the Almighty working and moving behind the scenes—not only to permit it, but also to watch over it. As I sit here this morning I can’t help but wonder what it was like as the LORD watched Satan initially wreak havoc within the life of Job by destroying camels, by destroying sheep, by destroying oxen, donkeys, and servants alike. I wonder what it was like as the LORD watched as each of Job’s ten children were killed in the freak accident of the house in which they were in collapsing upon them. I wonder what it was like as the LORD watched as Satan struck Job’s physical body with sore boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. It’s quite interesting to read the opening chapter of the Old Testament book of Job and to find the LORD declare unto Satan, “Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.” What was it like for the LORD as He not only declared unto Satan “All that he hath is in thine power,” but also declared “Behold, he is in thine hand.” The narrative of Job’s suffering is broken up into two parts, for when we read of the initial suffering we find and read the LORD granting Satan permission to touch all that Job had while instructing and commanding to keep his hands off of his physical body. After Satan had in fact touched all that Job had by carrying away all of his possessions and causing the deaths of his ten children, he would again appear before the throne of God among the sons of God—undoubtedly from moving to and fro throughout the earth seeking whom he may devour. In this second encounter between Satan and the LORD we find the LORD granting Satan access to touch the physical body of Job, but gave him specific commands and instructions not to take his life. In both of these narratives we find the LORD granting Satan a specific access within the life of Job, while also restricting access at the same time. Please don’t miss this reality and concept of granting access and restricting access, for it has the absolute and tremendous ability to transform the way you think about Job’s suffering—and not only Job’s suffering, but also your own suffering.

GRANTING ACCESS, RESTRICTING ACCESS! As you read the words which are written and recorded within the Old Testament book of Job—specifically the narratives which are found within the first and opening chapters—you will find that although the LORD would indeed grant Satan access to, upon and within Job’s life, He would also issue a command that would restrict his access at the same time. If we are to truly understand the suffering of Job we cannot, we dare not, and must not miss and lose sight of the absolutely incredible reality that the sovereignty of God is not only permissive, but also prohibitive. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD IS NOT ONLY PERMISSIVE, BUT ALSO PROHIBITIVE! As you sit and read the narrative of Job and the suffering which he experienced at the hands of Satan, you will find that while it is true that it was the LORD Himself who granted Satan access into, within and upon Job’s life—that access would also be limited in its scope. We cannot miss the fact that although in each case the LORD would indeed grant Satan access into and upon the life of Job, the LORD would also issue a command that still retained and still maintained a certain degree and measure of protection within and upon Job’s life. Initially Satan was granted access to touch all that Job had, for the LORD declared how all that he had was in his hand to do what he pleased. The only thing Satan could not do was stretch forth his hand upon the physical form and body of Job. It’s actually quite interesting that when the LORD declared unto Satan how all that Job had was in his hand, He didn’t set specific guidelines for what he could do or how he could operate within and among Job’s possessions. The LORD didn’t declare unto Satan how all that Job had was in his hands, and then limit what Satan could do with what Job had. In all reality, the statement which the LORD made unto Satan declaring that all Job had was in his hand granted full and complete access of Satan to touch everything within Job’s life without any type of restriction. In this initial encounter between Satan and the LORD in the presence of the sons of God we find the LORD granting unto Satan access to all that Job had, however, upon Job himself Satan would not be permitted to stretch forth his hand. This command would not only keep a hedge round about Job’s physical person and body, but it would also keep a hedge round about Job’s life as well, for Satan would be prohibited from taking the life of Job.

The more you read the words which are written and recorded within the Old Testament book of Job—and specifically the opening chapters—the more you will find that when Satan appeared before the LORD the second time, the LORD would grant Satan access to stretch forth his hand and touch the physical body of Job. Even though the LORD would allow Satan to stretch forth his hand to touch the physical body of Job, he would be prohibited from touching and taking the life of Job. Satan could stretch forth his hand and do whatever he wanted to the physical body of Job, however, what he couldn’t do was stretch forth his hand and take the life of Job. We cannot afford to miss this, for I wonder what it was like as the LORD watched Satan leave his presence that first time knowing that He had granted him permission to touch everything that Job had. What was it like as the LORD watched Satan turn and leave His presence knowing what Satan was about to do? It should be noted that not only did the LORD watch as Satan turned and left His presence, but He also knew what Satan was about to do in the midst of the life of His servant Job. What’s more, is that in the access the LORD gave unto Satan, He also restricted Himself from intervening and stepping into the midst of the suffering—at least initially and for a short period of time. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what it was like for the LORD to watch as Satan turned his back on him and departed from his presence knowing that Satan was about to unleash hell within and upon the life of His servant. There is not a doubt in my mind that as surely and as much as the LORD granted access to Satan to touch all that Job had, He also restricted Himself from stopping what Satan was about to do. In granting Satan access to all that Job had He could not step in the middle of, nor interfere with what Satan was about to do. The LORD would have to sit back and watch as Satan would unleash hell within and upon the life of Job, and the LORD would be completely unable to do anything—at least for a certain season and period of time. We cannot miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous reality, for it is quite astounding and remarkable to think about the fact that in granting Satan access to all that Job had the LORD would Himself take a back seat if you will to the suffering within the life of His servant. I have to wonder what it was like as the LORD watched Satan unleash his fury within and upon the life of Job as he caused all that he had to be taken and carried away, as he caused all but four of his servants to be killed with the sword, and as he caused each of his ten children to be killed at the same time. Stop for a moment and think about the great tidal wave, the great flood, and the great tsunami of suffering which would be unleashed within and upon the life of Job after Satan was granted access by the LORD whom Job feared and worshipped.

As you consider the narrative of the suffering of Job you and I must read it from the perspective of the sovereignty of the LORD, for it was the LORD Himself and the LORD alone who not only allowed the suffering to take place within the life of Job, but also put borders and boundaries round about the suffering which he would experience. Although the LORD would indeed grant Satan access to all that Job had, as well as the physical body of Job, He would set forth very clear and defined parameters that would limit what Satan could actually do. Satan would be permitted to initially touch all that Job had, however, upon his physical body and form he would be unable to to stretch forth his hand. The second time around, Satan would be permitted to stretch forth his hand and touch the physical body of Job, but he would be prohibited from stretching forth his hand upon his life to take it. The LORD would willingly allow all that Job had, and even the physical body of Job to be placed into the hands of Satan, however, the LORD would retain sovereignty—not only over the suffering which Job faced and experienced, but also over what Satan was able to do. It’s worth noting that suffering does indeed and does in fact have its limits, for when the LORD allowed Satan to stretch forth his hand upon all that Job had, He placed limitations around his activity, for once Satan had touched everything Job had he could do nothing more within the life of Job. I have to wonder how much time elapsed between the day when Job received four different reports that not only had all his possessions been taken and carried away, but also all but four of his servants were killed, and each of his ten children were killed in a single day, and when Satan stretched forth his hand and struck his physical body with sore boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. Scripture is entirely and altogether clear as to the time frame of the suffering which Job experienced, for in the sixth verse of the first chapter we find “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them” (Job 1:6). In the thirteenth verse of the same chapter we find “And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house” (Job 1:13).In the first and opening verse of the second chapter we find “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD” (Job 2:1). The only time we don’t read how “there was a day” is when Satan left the presence of the LORD the second time and stretched forth his hand to strike Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to his crown.

SUFFERING HAS ITS LIMITS! When we think about the suffering of Job we must recognize and understand that the suffering which he experienced had certain limits and parameters around it, for although the LORD would grant all that Job had into the hands of Satan—once Satan had done his damage, and once Satan had caused all his possessions to be carried away, and once he had caused all but four of his servants and each of his ten children to be killed, he could do no more within, nor upon the life of Job. It should be noted concerning the suffering of Job and the sovereignty of God that not only did the sovereignty of the LORD permit Satan access into Job’s life, but the sovereignty of God also limited what Satan could do, for Satan would not be able to touch the physical body of Job. Once Satan had done exactly what the LORD had granted him permission to do, there was nothing more that he could do, for the LORD still retained His sovereignty over the physical body and actual life of Job. While it is true that I can’t help but wonder what it was like as the LORD watched Satan turn and leave His presence, and even as Satan unleashed havoc within the life of Job, I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Satan as he stood back after he had touched everything Job had waiting, hoping for and expecting Job to curse the LORD, and waiting for Job to sin with his lips. I would imagine that Satan watched in utter shock and sheer horror as in the midst of suffering Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly. I would imagine that Satan watched in sheer and absolutely horror and stunned amazement after he had struck his entire body with sore boils that Job did not sin with his lips. We cannot miss this absolutely incredible and wonderful reality, for to do so would be to miss the tremendous narrative that not only surrounds the LORD watching the havoc Satan would unleash within and upon the life of Job, but also as Satan himself watched Job’s response to the suffering which was inflicted within and upon his life. There is not a doubt in my mind that on the one hand we find the LORD watching Satan unleash havoc within and upon the life of Job, and we find the LORD watching Job’s response to the suffering that would take place within his life; while on the other hand we find Satan standing back and watching Job’s response to the suffering to see whether or not he would sin with his lips by charging God, complaining about his suffering, and even cursing God. In fact, after Satan had struck Job’s physical body with sore boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet we find his own wife asking Job if he still restrained his integrity. What’s more, is that Job’s own wife would tell him to curse God and die in the midst of his suffering, for undoubtedly she would be impacted and affected by his suffering, as the ten children which were killed were her children as well.

The narrative surrounding the suffering of Job is actually something that is quite remarkable and quite astounding when you take the time to think about and consider it, for when we think about the suffering which Job experienced, we must truly recognize and understand the sovereignty of God in the midst of and over the suffering he experienced. The LORD would indeed permit Satan to stretch forth his hand within and upon the life of Job, however, Satan’s activity within the life of Job, and his ability to touch certain aspects within his life were still governed and controlled by the LORD. We dare not look at the suffering which Job experienced and miss the awesome reality that the LORD gave very specific instruction to Satan concerning his activity within the life of Job, for although all that Job had was in his hand to do what he wanted, he could not stretch forth his hand to touch his physical body. It’s important to note that the suffering which Job experienced had limitations, as once Satan had caused all that Job had to be carried away, and caused all but four of his servants and each of his ten children to be killed, his activity stopped. WHEN SATAN’S ACTIVITY STOPPED! WHEN SATAN’S ACTIVITY IS STOPPED! It should be noted that even after Satan touched all that Job had, he no longer had any access nor permission into and within the life of Job. Once Satan had stretched forth his hand upon Job’s possessions, upon his servants, and upon the lives of his ten children, there was nothing more he could do—at least not at that time. The sovereignty of God not only permitted and allowed Satan to stretch forth his hand and touch all that Job had, but the sovereignty of God would also bring to an end that suffering. It’s worth noting that just as the LORD has boundaries for the sea which cannot be crossed unless He grants it to be so, so also does that which Satan can do within the lives of the servants of God also have boundaries which cannot be crossed unless the LORD deems it so. When you think a bout the sea, and when you think about the sand of the shore and how the waves of the sea come crashing down day after day, you have to understand that a vast majority of the time the sea cannot cross the border and boundary that was set in place by the LORD. Oh there are certain and specific times when the LORD can and will allow that border and boundary to be breached, as tsunamis have been permitted to wreak havoc, destruction and devastation upon certain pats of the earth. If there is one thing we must understand concerning the sea, it’s that the sea cannot go beyond the border and boundary that was preordained and predetermined by the living God. It’s interesting to note that the sea can never move from its place, and the sea can never leave its place, for it’s always there, and its waves always crash upon the shore. What makes it all the more interesting and intriguing is when you consider the fact that although the sea is always there, it can never cross the border and boundary that was set by the living God.

THE BORDER AND BOUNDARY OF SUFFERING! THE BORDER AND BOUNDARY OF THE ACTIVITY OF SATAN! I am absolutely convinced that much like the sea itself has borders and boundaries, so also does suffering within our hearts and lives also have borders and boundaries. Just as the sea has borders and boundaries which it cannot cross unless the LORD allows and permits that border and boundary to be breached, so also does suffering itself have its own borders and boundaries, which cannot be crossed until and unless the LORD in His sovereignty allows it to be so. Within the life of Job we must recognize and understand that the initial suffering which Job experienced through the carrying away of his possessions, the slaughtering of his servants, and the death of his children would itself have borders and boundaries which would and could not be crossed, nor could that suffering move beyond the boundary the LORD had set. The LORD set forth clear parameters and clear boundaries for the suffering of Job, for although all that Job had was in the hand of Satan the adversary and the accuser, the physical body and life of Job was off limits. Satan’s wrath, Satan’s fury, and all that Satan could do was just like the sea which could only come so far and could come no further. The LORD would allow Satan certain unrestricted access, while at the same time also retaining sovereignty and control over Job’s physical person and body. All that Job had was in Satan’s hands, which demonstrates and reveals the permissive sovereignty of God, while Job’s physical body was off limits, thus demonstrating the prohibitive sovereignty of God. The more we think about and the more we consider the suffering of Job, the more we must recognize and come to understand that at the very heart and center of that suffering was the sovereignty of God—not only over what could be done and what had been done, but also over what could not be done. Initially, the sovereignty of the LORD would place all that Job had into the hands of Satan the adversary, but it would also restrict Satan from stretching forth his hand to touch the physical body of Job, and even Job’s life. The LORD would grant Satan the added permission to stretch forth his hand upon the physical body of Job, however, Satan could not stretch forth his hand to take the life of Job. Once Satan touched and struck the physical body of Job with sore boils from his head to his feet, his authority and power within his life had been brought to an end, and had been utterly and completely cut off. Oh we cannot, we dare not, and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible and stone shine reality, for it has the dramatic ability to truly impact and affect—not only how we view suffering, but also how we view God’s sovereignty over our suffering.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY OVER OUR SUFFERING! THE PERMISSIVE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD! THE PROHIBITIVE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD! THIS FAR AND NO MORE! YOU CAN COME THIS FAR AND THEN YOU MUST STOP! THAT WHICH GOD ALLOWS, THAT WHICH GOD RESTRICTS! The more I think about the narrative of the suffering of Job the more I can’t help but consider the fact that through and in the midst of all the suffering he would experience, the LORD would retain His sovereignty over it all. The LORD would indeed and the LORD would in fact exercise His authority and His government over the suffering of Job—and not only over the suffering of Job, but also the activity of Satan within the life of Job. Much like the sea that is only permitted to come so far and no more unless the LORD temporarily removes that barrier and boundary, so also could Satan only come so far before his activity within the life of Job, and his ability to further inflict damage and destruction go so far. When we think about suffering—specifically when we think about God’s role and God’s place in suffering—we must recognize and understand that despite and regardless of what takes place within our lives, the LORD has always, and the LORD will always be completely and utterly sovereign over it all. Suffering has never, suffering will never, and suffering does not take place outside the parameters, the borders and the boundaries of the sovereignty of God, as the living and eternal God exercises His authority over suffering from beginning to the end. The LORD would initially and originally allow Satan to touch all that Job had, but the LORD would declare unto Satan that upon his physical body he could not stretch forth his hand. This would guarantee the continued border and boundary the LORD had placed round about Job—one that could not be crossed unless the LORD Himself had granted permission and access. Through the suffering of Job we encounter and come face to face with the incredible reality that when we consider suffering within our own lives, we must recognize and understand that suffering can never take place outside of the authority of God—not only within our lives, but also over suffering itself. Take anything you have experienced within your life, or even that thing you are presently experiencing, and you must recognize and understand that none of it has taken place outside of the sovereignty of the living God. No suffering you have experienced, and no suffering you are presently experiencing can take place outside the sovereignty of God, for everything must operate within the parameters and boundaries of the sovereignty of the LORD. We must come to the point and place where we either believe that the LORD is sovereign over everything—including any suffering we might experience within our lives—or we choose not to believe that. We must choose that nothing has ever taken place, nor does anything take place outside of and apart from the sovereignty of the living God, for He alone has full and complete control over the end from the beginning.

If there is one thing I absolutely love about the suffering of Job and the sovereignty of the living God is that the LORD allowed all that Job had to be touched by Satan and placed into his hands, for the LORD know that He could reverse anything that had been done, and could restore Job double, triple, seven fold, and even ten fold what he previously had. The LORD allowed Satan to stretch forth his hand to touch the physical body of Job, and allowed Satan to smite him with sore boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet knowing full well that at any point in time He could heal Job’s entire body and completely destroy the boils which plagued his body. RESTORATION AND HEALING! We read of the suffering which Job faced and experienced within his life, and it would be very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the actual suffering itself, while the entire time we fail to realize that whatever was taken, whatever was carried away, whatever was stolen within Job’s life—that same thing could be restored. What’s more, is that not only could that which was stolen and that was carried away be restored, but the LORD could restore it even greater than it was originally and previously. Job might very well have lost all his possessions as a direct result of the sovereignty of God over Satan’s access within his life, and yet everything Job lost could be restored. It was true that Job might very well have lost the lives of all of his children, and yet the LORD could grant Job additional children that would and could be born unto him. Job’s original ten children might very well have been killed, and their lives might never be restored, however, that would not mean the LORD could not restore unto Job additional children, and allow Job to experience exactly what he had before. The LORD would not resurrect and raise up those ten children which were dead, but the LORD would and could allow Job to have more children, which would be born to him and and his wife. What’s more, is that Job’s physical body might very well have been struck with sore boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet, and yet the LORD could completely and utterly heal the physical body of Job and allow all those boils to be removed from his body, and his entire body to be healed. It is true the LORD might have allowed all that Job had to be touched by Satan the adversary and carried away, however, as true as that is—it is also true that the LORD would indeed and could in fact restore everything that was taken and carried away. Not only this, but the LORD could very well heal Job’s physical body and restore him to full and complete health just as before Satan had struck his physical body.

While we read the narrative concerning the suffering of Job, and while we might very well wonder how a “Good, Good Father” could allow one of His servants to experience suffering to the degree in which Job did, we must allow ourselves to not only recognize the sovereignty of God to permit the suffering, but we must also allow ourselves to recognize the sovereignty of God to end the suffering and restore and heal at the end of it. It would be very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in God allowing the suffering to take place, and to ask why and how God could even let such a thing happen, however, we must recognize and understand that the LORD not only has the authority to permit suffering, but the LORD also has the authority to reverse that suffering, and to restore that which was taken, to restore that which was carried away, to restore that which was stolen, and to restore that which we have lost. I can’t help but sit here this morning and think about the sovereignty of the living God to not only allow suffering to take place within our lives, but also His sovereignty over bringing restoration in the midst of our suffering and after the suffering was over. We might allow ourselves to get so caught up in how God could allow suffering to take place within our lives, and yet we fail to recognize and understand that God didn’t even spare His own Son from experiencing suffering while upon and within this earth. It would be easy to allow ourselves to become angry, bitter, and even offended with God for allowing suffering, and yet we must recognize and understand that the living and eternal God didn’t even exempt and immune Himself from suffering, as through the person of Jesus Christ which was the Word made flesh we find the Lord Himself suffering. Oh how easy it is to get caught up in our own suffering, and how easy it is to allow ourselves to grow angry with the LORD for allowing such suffering to take place, and yet completely and utterly miss the point that God did not spare His Son from suffering, and He did not spare His Son from death. Please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this tremendous reality, for not only did the “Good Good Father” allow His Son to suffer within and upon this earth in the flesh, but God allowed His Son to be crucified, killed and murdered upon a cruel Roman cross at Calvary, and His body to be buried in the midst of the grave. The “Good Good Father” allowed the lifeless body of His Son to be placed within the grave, however, He would not allow that body to suffer decay, for on the third day Jesus would rise from the dead, and the same body that had been buried and laid in that tomb would indeed and would in fact rise again.

I can’t help but think about how many countless men and women have an incredibly difficult time with accepting suffering within their lives—or even within the life of someone they love or are close to—and yet they don’t take the time to realize that when we think about suffering we must recognize and understand that God Himself didn’t spare His own Son from suffering. What’s more, is that God didn’t spare His own Son from death, and allowed Him to be crucified upon a cruel Roman cross as an angry mob stood round about and watched the scene unfold. What’s more, is that as you read the narrative of Jesus hanging upon the cross, you will find that at the sixth hour a thick darkness descended upon Calvary—a darkness that would remain in that place for a full three hours. I firmly believe that not only did the “Good Good Father” allow Jesus Christ to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders of Israel, and not only did the living God allow Jesus to suffer at the hands of the Roman soldiers, but I am absolutely and completely convinced that the “Good Good Father” allowed all of hell to descend upon Calvary, and at the sixth hour—after Jesus had already been hanging on the cross for three hours—every principality, every unclean spirit, every demon, every spiritual wickedness, and yes, even Satan Himself would surround Jesus the Christ. I am absolutely and completely convinced that the darkness we read about in the gospel narrative was a darkness that was induced by all of hell itself surrounding Jesus the Christ, and that as Jesus hung there upon the cross, He not only only hung before the earthly crowd and mob that was before and round about the cross, but He also hung there before a demonic horde and mob that undoubtedly mocked, ridiculed, and hurled all manner of blasphemy and insults upon and against Him. It would be very easy to allow ourselves to ask how and why God could allow suffering within our lives, and yet fail to recognize and understand that God didn’t spare His own Son from suffering. What’s more, is that not only did the living God not spare His own Son from suffering, but the living God allowed His Son to feel forsaken and abandoned, and even allowed Him to be surrounded on all sides by enemies and adversaries as every demon and principality alike descended upon the cross to mock and ridicule Jesus as He hung there upon the cross. We cannot afford to miss this absolutely tremendous and wonderful reality, for it is so easy for us to become selfish and self-centered in the midst of our suffering and completely forget about the suffering which the living God allowed His own Son to face and experience in this life. The living and eternal God allowed His Son to suffer in the flesh, allowed His Son to be nailed to a cross, allowed His Son to feel forsaken and abandoned by Him, allowed His Son to be surrounded by enemies on all sides, and yes, even allowed His Son to die upon that cross, and His body be buried in the midst of the earth.

What we must recognize and what we must understand is that despite the fact that the living God allowed His own Son to suffer in the flesh, to feel forsaken and abandoned by Him, to be surrounded by enemies and adversaries on all sides, and to even die upon that cross and His lifeless body be buried in the heart of the earth, He would raise Him up from the dead, and would bring Him forth out of the tomb. What’s more, is that the living God would not only restore the Son to His place in eternity, but would also set Him down at His right hand, and would give Him a name that was above all names—that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that He is truly and indeed Lord. OH that would not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible and astonishing reality, for it has the ability to dramatically alter and shift how we think about and how we view suffering. Although the LORD would allow His Son to suffer in the flesh, and although the LORD would allow His Son to die and His body be buried in a borrowed tomb, He would raise Him up on the third day, and would bring full and complete restoration. It’s easy to think about suffering only in terms of what is taking place in the here and the now, and yet completely and utterly miss what is taking place behind the scenes in eternity. It is easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in suffering within our hearts and lives and fail to recognize the sovereignty of the living God in the midst of our suffering—sovereignty not only over what is allowed to happen within our lives, but also what isn’t allowed to happen within our lives. SOVEREIGN OVER WHAT HAS HAPPENED, SOVEREIGN OVER WHAT CANNOT HAPPEN, SOVEREIGN OVER WHAT WILL HAPPEN! I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the absolutely wonderful reality that the sovereignty of God in the midst of our suffering not only touches what has happened and what is happening, but the sovereignty of God also touches something else which is more often than not overlooked. The more we think about and the more we consider suffering the more we must recognize the sovereignty of the living God over what hasn’t happened and what can’t happen, for even in the midst of our suffering there are things which haven’t happen and things which can’t happen because the LORD will not, could not, and would not allow to happen.

Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you thought about suffering in light of the sovereignty of God? When was the last time you viewed suffering through the lens of the permissive sovereignty of God, as well as the prohibitive suffering of God? We are very good at looking at suffering through the lens of what has happened, and what is happening in the here and the now, and yet truth be told we fail to recognize and understand that God has exercised and is exercising His authority and His sovereignty over what cannot happen and what has not happened, as well as what can and what will happen. Whenever we deal with and talk about suffering and sovereignty we must view and understand it through three different lens—the lens of what has happened, the lens of what hasn’t happened, and the lens of what will happen. Suffering always has three parts, and suffering always has three distinct elements to it, and it is these three elements which we must recognize and understand if we are to truly have a proper understand of suffering and the sovereignty of God. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle written unto the saints which were scattered, as well as the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eighth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome, as well as what was written in the fourth, eleventh and twelfth chapters of the second epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth. What’s more, is that I can’t help but be reminded of the words which James would write in the first and opening chapter of the epistle which he himself wrote found in the New Testament. Consider if you will the following words which are found within each of these epistles located in the New Testament:

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the LORD Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:1-18).

“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities” (2 Corinthians 11:23-30).

“…Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the LORD thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:5-10).

“For ye have not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ABBA, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth,, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth was is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknowe, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. More Vero whom he did predestinate, them also he called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and won he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for his all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:15-39).

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busy body in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the LORD hath promised to them that love him. Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and is enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:2-15).

When you read the words which are found within each of these passages you are brought face to face with the sovereignty of the living and eternal God over absolutely every form and manner of suffering within our lives. Regardless and despite what we go through and what we face within this life there is one truth that absolutely stands and remains—namely, that the living God who sits upon the throne in heaven is sovereign over our suffering. It makes absolutely no difference how easy or how difficult that suffering might seem, for the LORD our God is absolutely sovereign and is in complete control over everything that takes place. With that being said, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that this sovereignty of the LORD our God in the midst of our suffering does in fact take place in three realms—the realm of what is, the realm of what is not, and the realm of what will be. More often than not we allow ourselves to get caught up in the realm of what is, and we completely neglect and ignore the realm of what is not, and the realm of what will be. Time and time again—because of the degree and measure of the suffering we experience in the midst of our suffering—we allow ourselves to become blinded to the other two realms of suffering, and completely miss the point of what is not and the point of what will be. Whenever we face, experience and endure suffering there is always the element which we can see, which is the realm of what is and the realm of what we are presently experiencing in the here and the now. The realm and phase of suffering we more often than not allow ourselves to become entangled and consumed with is the realm of what we see and what is in front of us. What we must understand is that this is indeed natural, and this is indeed human nature, for it is incredibly difficult to not focus on what is right in front of us, and focus on what we are presently experiencing and enduring. More often than not it is difficult to allow ourselves to move beyond what we presently see and what we are presently experiencing—particularly and especially when what we are experiencing might very well be severe and thrust us into discouragement, despair, anguish, agony, hurt, pain, brokenness, and the like. It is incredibly easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the here and the now and the present realm of suffering, and yet there is an underlying danger in allowing ourselves to only focus on that which is before and in front of us. There is an inherent danger found within our nature to only view suffering through the lens of what we see and what we are presently experiencing, for when we allow ourselves to do so we fail to allow ourselves to focus on the realm of what is not, as well as the realm of what will be.

I am convinced that for every experience of suffering we face within this life there is, and there will always be the realm of what we can see, what we can hear, what we can feel in the presence, however, there are two other realms which warrant just as much consideration—perhaps even more consideration than what we are presently experiencing. I fully recognize and realize that it might seem like an incredibly difficult to thing to endure and experience suffering within our lives and to at the same point in time look at what is not and what has not happened, and yet in the midst of all the suffering we might presently experiencing there are always those things which the living God has protected and kept us from. Despite the fact that we might not be able to see those things which we are being spared from, and those things which we are being kept from, we must nonetheless recognize and understand that even in the midst of our suffering the LORD is still sovereign to allow us to not experience and walk through more than what He knows we can handle and bear. Job found himself losing everything—possessions, servants and children—and yet despite the fact that all he had was in the hands of Satan, the adversary could not move beyond the boundaries and parameters set by the living God. What we must recognize and understand is that despite that which Satan might be able to do within our lives, there is always and there will always be those things and perhaps even that one thing which he cannot do. What’s so interesting and unique about the realm of that which is not in the midst of suffering is that you might never know what the LORD kept and spared you from. The LORD didn’t reveal unto Job that He had allowed all that he had to be given into the hands of the adversary, but instructed Satan not to touch his physical body. The LORD never declared unto Job that He allowed Satan to stretch forth his hand and touch his physical body, but instructed him not to take his life. This is quite interesting, for when we think about the realm of that which is not, it is absolutely necessary that we understand that despite what we are facing and experiencing within our hearts and lives there is still so much the LORD has kept and spared us from. We might never know and understand all the LORD spared and kept us from on this side of eternity—and even when we do cross over into the realm of eternity we still might not know and understand that which the LORD kept us from. Job came out on the other side of his suffering having his health fully restored, being blessed beyond what he previously had, and being given more children, and yet the LORD never revealed unto Job what he kept him from. The LORD didn’t reveal unto Job that He had specifically instructed the enemy and adversary not to preserve the life of Job, nor did He declare unto Job that throughout all his suffering the single greatest thing He preserved was his life, for everything Job had could be restored, healed and given again.

The absolutely wonderful reality concerning the words which are found in the New Testament concerning suffering is that we have always been and will always be able to see the suffering that is in front of us, however, we are invited into an even greater place beyond what we can see in the here and the now. Through the epistles found within the New Testament we are invited to look beyond our sufferings which are before our eyes and before our senses, and to recognize that there is a third realm to our suffering—a realm which we cannot and will not see on this side of eternity. Oh we do know and understand that there is realm of what will be in the realm of time and space, for restoration is always and has always been made possible. So also healing has always and will always be made possible. Blessing has always and will always be available in the here and the now on the other side of our suffering, however, the New Testament writers teach us not to look for, nor even to expect that which we might find on the other side of suffering in the realm of time and space, but rather what is on the other side of suffering and on the other side of time and space. The New Testament authors wrote of a crown of life that awaits us on the other side of time and space, and even glory which far surpasses and far outweighs any amount of suffering we find ourselves experiencing in the here and the now. The New Testament authors sought to teach us and bring us into the place where we recognize and realize that despite any amount of suffering we face in this life—there is an eternal glory that awaits us when we die, or when we are raptured together with the saints of God in Jesus Christ. When we think about the suffering we experience in this life we must recognize that of course we will always be aware of what we presently experiencing in the here and the now, however, we cannot, we must not, and we should not allow ourselves to get caught up in what is before and in front of us in terms of our suffering and not also be caught up in what lies before and ahead of us on the other side of the suffering. IF there is one great truth concerning and regarding suffering it’s that there is always “another side”—regardless of whether that side is in the realm of time and space, or whether it is in eternity. What’s more, is that even if there is another side to suffering in this life, there is still and there will always be another side in eternity. There are those who will come out on the other side of suffering in the here and the now, and will also experience the other side of suffering in the eternal kingdom of heaven, while there are others who might not experience the other side of suffering in the here and now, and will find that place in the eternal kingdom of heaven with the Father, with the eternal Son, with all the holy angels which worship before and around Him, and the great cloud of witnesses which has gone before us.

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the fact that the sovereignty of God in terms of our suffering not only takes place in the realm of what is permitted, but also in the realm of what is prohibited. What’s more, is that suffering has always and will always contain and be wrapped up in three distinct realms and three different spheres—the first being the realm of what is, the second being the realm of what is not, and the third being the realm of what will be. We cannot and must not allow ourselves to be so caught up in the reality and struggle of what is that we lose sight of what will be on the other side of suffering—whether it is here on this side of eternity, or whether it is on the other side. What’s more, is that regardless of whatever suffering we face and experience within our hearts and lives we must recognize and understand that suffering always has the realm and sphere of what is not in terms of that which the living God spares and keeps us from. Despite what we might face in this life we must recognize and understand that any suffering we experience always has an element of what the LORD is not allowing to happen, and what the LORD has not allowed to happen. There has always been and there will always be these three elements and realms of suffering, and I am absolutely and completely convinced that we as the saints of God must allow ourselves to view our suffering through this three-fold lens. There is an inherent danger in viewing our suffering only through the lens of what is, and I fully realize and recognize that what I am speaking of and suggesting is easier said than done. I fully recognize and realize that it’s not entirely or altogether easy to be in the throes of suffering and consider what the LORD is keeping us from, as well as to anticipate what awaits us on the other side of suffering. There are times within our lives when our suffering will have such a tight grip on us that we aren’t able to see it through the other two lenses. It is in these moments when I would remind you that not only does the Holy Spirit intercede for us—even if we don’t know what to pray or find it hard to pray—but so also do we have a great High Priest who also intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father in heaven. The divine and eternal Trinity is one God in three persons, and two of those persons are actively interceding for us before the Father who sits upon the throne. Oh that we would allow ourselves in those moments when the suffering and struggle seem to be too great for us to handle and bear to recognize that both the Spirit and the Son make intercession for us with words and groanings which cannot be uttered.

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