In the year following the attack on the World Trade Centers, my wife and I attended an Alison Krauss and Union Station concert. The final song of the night was intentionally, though obliquely, linked to that still fresh wound. The opening verse of the song, written by banjo/guitar player Ron Block, muses
Why do we suffer, crossing off the years?
There must be a reason for it all.
The reality of human suffering is beyond question. To imply that there is a reason for it comes with its own set of problems. Given the horrific nature of what the TVs and our own lives bring into our experiences, if there is reason, it had better be good.
Rarely, however, do we find the proffered reasons satisfactory. That is no surprise to me. If God is, and if God rules, and if God rules with intention and purpose, how can the terrible evil we see fit into that rule, if indeed he is, as we assume, good?
The option to God’s purpose, we noted in a prior post, is no purpose. For many reasons, I opt for the notion of God having a purpose as being a greater comfort. But that does not mean I understand the purposes of an infinite and all wise God. As AKUS notes:
In all the things that cause me pain You give me eyes to see.
I do believe but help my unbelief.
It should not surprise us if we cannot comprehend the purposes of a sovereign God. But that does not mean that we are given no hints. In a day when the horrors were more likely to be next door than simply on television, Christian thinkers were more earnestly pressed to consider the questions and posit some answers. Thomas Boston writing 300 years ago suggested that the afflictions which befall the Christian may arise from one of seven possible reasons. I list them here not to pretend to be exhaustive, but to give us, as the Scriptures do, a place to rest our weak faith.
1. The trial of one’s state, whether one is in the state of grace or not? whether a sincere Christian or a hypocrite?
2. Excitation to duty, weaning one from this world, and prompting him to look after the happiness of the other world.
3. Conviction of sin.
4. Correction or punishment for sin.
5. Preventing of sin.
6. Discovery [revealing] of latent corruption.
7. The exercise of grace in the children of God.
Standing alone these are little help, and even once explained, they may bring minimal comfort. Ultimately our hope is in the love of God, proven in the cross of Christ, where God himself suffered on our behalf.
Hurtin’ brings my heart to You, crying with my need,
Depending on Your love to carry me.
The love that shed His blood for all the world to see
This must be the reason for it all.
More concisely put is this quote lifted from Twitter, which Tim Keller attributes to a sermon of Jonathan Edwards. Knowing the love and purpose of a good and sovereign heavenly Father, we can know this:
Our bad things will turn out for good. Our good things can never really be lost. And the best things are yet to come. #JEdwardsfirstsermon
— Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) June 10, 2013
There is, in fact, a reason for it all.
7 thoughts on “There Must Be a Reason”
I love your explanation of the unexplainable. How timely!
I find the 7 questions presented by Thomas Boston quite interesting and reflective. Of course in my own crisis I tend to naturally migrate towards dwelling on #1,3,& 4, with more emphasis on the #4, but am thinking # 2 may play a vital role in the overall purpose of our trials.
Love the song by AKUS, which has amazing lyrics and beautiful harmony. (I used to listen to them frequently back in the day of my attempts to understand and appreciate country music)
I really like the quote from Tim Keller and cling to the closing sentence.
It would not surprise me to find out that the author of the song, Ron Block, was also a fan of Mr. Boston, or his ilk. The book is called “The Crook in the Lot”. You might enjoy reading it, though he can be hard going at times.
I’ll add the book to my list since I have improved my work/life balance, with added time to actual living. 🙂
When saying the author is hard going, do you mean hard to follow, or that he is tough and direct?
Hard going in that as a writer from 300 years ago, the style is different than we are accustomed to.
Ah..like Shakespeare 🙂 I’ll check it out in the near future and let you know my thoughts.
Another question regarding the subject of the blog. What are your thoughts regarding Thomas Boston’s item # 4? Does God still allow suffering for correction or to punish us for our sins?
I might take issue with him on that point, for sure. But it is true that some suffering is the natural outcome of our sinful choices.
Oh yes indeed! Agreed.
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