There was no little turmoil in the world in 1801. England was only a few years removed from the Revolutionary War and now they faced the ever-increasing advance of Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule. Newton, writing to Hannah More, reflects upon the times:
He does and will overrule all the designs of men for the furtherance and accomplishment of his holy plan. Not only his friends but his enemies contribute to it. The wrath of man, so far as it is permitted to act, shall praise him, and the remainder of their wrath, whatever they mean more than is subservient to his purpose, He will restrain…We, perhaps, have been tempted almost to wish that some persons had not been born, or had been taken away before they had opportunity of doing so much mischief, but what the Lord said to Pharaoh will apply to all like-minded, ‘For this very cause have I raised thee up.
Words like this usually draw sharp criticism in our day. How in the world can we say that the Boston bombers are somehow instruments in the hands of Almighty God? Doesn’t this make God evil and wicked? How could we serve such a God?
Such questions are tough. And I don’t know all of the answers to them. But at the end of the day I find comfort in the words of Newton, especially these:
When I consider all second causes and instruments as mere saws and hammers in the workman’s hands, and that they can neither give us pleasure nor pain, but as our Lord and Savior is pleased to employ them, I feel a degree of peace and composure.
Suffering is tough. Easy answers do not suffice. It seems that every day we open a newspaper some new story of suffering is unfolding. Abortion clinics, bombers, train wrecks, explosions, tsunamis, on and on the litany of pain continues. We either believe that God’s drama is somehow unfolding or we believe that He’s a reactionary. I don’t understand all the implications of it but I believe Scripture paints the first picture.
Newton went on to say, “how little can we judge of this great drama by a single scene!”. We don’t have all the answers and that is intentional. But somehow we have to trust that God has a good purpose in all suffering.
For a more complete treatment of this theme I would invite the reader to check out my book, Torn to Heal, which releases tomorrow.