"Sometimes it seems that earlier generations of Christians had a higher view of God than we do. The reason for that may very well lie in the fact that they were much more familiar with pain, with suffering, with persecution, and with death than we are. Because of all they endured, they were forced to consider the hand of God in the midst of their difficulties.
The bottom line is that God’s hand is in affliction. His sovereignty is manifest in the dark side of life. This is said so frequently in Scripture that it is amazing that it is so hard for us to get it. I believe that the reason for this is that we shut our minds from thinking about these things. Why do we go to the house of mirth in the first place? For many of us, a party is not simply an opportunity to have a good time but a chance to get away from thinking, to get away from considering our “life situation.” We look for an escape, an avenue of pleasure that will somehow dull the fears and the aches that we carry about. But the wise person looks for the finger of God in the house of mirth as well as in the house of mourning, in all things that take place.
It is interesting to consider how Solomon begins chapter 8 of Ecclesiastes. Having just affirmed these difficult truths regarding God’s sovereignty, he writes: “Who is like a wise man? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the sternness of his face is changed” (v. 1). After hearing Solomon tell us it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of mirth, we might get the idea that God wants His people to be so contemplative, so considering in the difficult things of life, that they walk around stone-faced, with a dour disposition. That is not at all what the author of Ecclesiastes intends. Instead, he is affirming here that when we understand the sovereignty of God, it changes the countenance of our face. It changes our demeanor. Those who understand God’s sovereignty have joy even in the midst of suffering, a joy reflected on their very faces, for they see that their suffering is not without purpose."
-R.C. Sproul, excerpt from Surprised by Suffering
One week from today, R.C. Sproul and Derek Thomas will be examining the Lord’s sovereignty over our suffering at our first Winter Conference at Ligonier Academy in Orlando, Fla. Please join us on January 22-23 for a few days of prayer, fellowship, worship, and teaching as we study how the Lord is faithfulness in our darkest hours.