By Stephen Altrogge
It’s okay, you can speak freely here. We’re all in this together. We’re like one big family, like the Olive Garden. Just take a moment and ponder the inspirational posters on my wall. Doesn’t that picture of a bald eagle flying through a rainbow send shivers down your spine? Listen to the soothing sound of the smooth jazz in the background (The Best of Kenny G). Take some deep, cleansing breaths. Out with Mr. Bad Air, in with Mr. Good Air. Good. Now touch your toes. Touch your elbow. Touch your toes with your elbow. You are now doing the Yoga form called “The You Look Ridiculous”. Trust me, I do this with all my clients.
Now answer this question: do you think God enjoys seeing you suffer?
Come on now, answer honestly! Yep, that’s what I thought. Me too. Now get rid of the posters and jazz and Yoga poses. Those never do any good anyway.
I admit, there are times when I believe God enjoys bringing pain into my life. I know in my head that God works all things for good, and that I am supposed to rejoice always, and that nothing can blady, blady, blah. But deep down, I suspect God somehow enjoys seeing me suffer. I think of God as a drill sergeant. He makes me suffer because He knows it will ultimately be truly good for me (see Romans 8, etc.). But he also makes me suffer because he enjoys seeing me break down. I imagine that God enjoys breaking me.
But the reality is, God takes NO pleasure in my suffering. None. Zero. Nada. Lamentations 3:31-33 says:
For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.
Commenting on this passage, Thomas Brooks says:
God takes no delight to afflict his children; it goes against the grain of his heart. It grieves him to be grievous to them; it pains him to punish then, and it is like death to him to strike them. He has no inclination or dispostion to the work of afflicting them…
I’m a dad. I love my children so much, and I do not take any pleasure in disciplining my children. There are times when I must discipline them, but it does not bring me any pleasure. Our heavenly father does not take any pleasure in causing us to suffer. He is not a cosmic sadist. Yes he uses suffering for our good. Yes he uses suffering to make us more like Jesus. Yes he works all of our sufferings for his glory and our good. But he does not enjoy breaking us. He does not take a perverted pleasure in seeing us brought to nothing. All suffering is the result of sin in the world (not necessarily personal sin, but the fact that sin is in the world).
How sad it must be for God when I think he enjoys hurting me. How hurtful it must be to him when I believe he enjoys orchestrating my suffering. His heart is tender toward me. His hands are gentle around me. It grieves him to be grievous to me. It is like death for him to strike me.
Scripture promises we will suffer. When we suffer, let’s not believe the Satanic lie that God somehow enjoys making us suffer. Nothing could be further from the truth. He ordains, orchestrates, and uses suffering. But he never, ever delights in causing suffering.
Stephen Altrogge serves as pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA. Stephen is author of the books Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wanabes and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Stephen blogs at The Blazing Center.