With thanks to Peter Adam, who noticed that I was writing a series on suffering, and who sent this article to my friend Andy Prideaux so he could send it to me....
In any suffering, or in any other event for that matter, God is doubtless doing many things, perhaps thousands of things, millions of things, even if we can only detect two or three or a handful.
A godly woman in her middle years is diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer. What is God doing? My little brain can imagine several possibilities. At one level, he may be providentially allowing the effluents of the Fall to take their course, a constant reminder that it is appointed to all of us to die, and then face judgement (Heb 9:27). He may be preparing her for eternity: it is a great grace to know when you are going to die, and prepare for it. He may be shocking her 20-something son, who is living his life indifferent to the gospel, to prod him into self-examination and repentance. He may use her testimony about the joy of the Lord even in the midst of suffering to call another of her children into vocational ministry. He may be using her as a way to teach people in her church what it looks like to "die well," anticipating several other deaths in the next two years. He may be teaching her minister-husband to slow down and care about his family, and in principle other people, instead of being endlessly busy with "the ministry." He may be sparing her from living long enough to witness the moral destruction of her daughter. Her funeral may be the means by which several of her unconverted relatives, for whom she has been praying, will come to faith — conversions for which she would happily give her life. Perhaps one of those converts will become a Christian pastor of rare gift whose ministry of proclamation will touch thousands. Perhaps she is hiding some deep bitterness and hate in her life, and God is using this means to confront her.
I've barely started a list of possible things God may be doing, and I have a small brain. What does the omniscient God think he is doing? In other words, sometimes we have to cover our mouths and confess, in faith, that we cannot possibly grasp all that God is doing when someone suffers. So why should we think in antithetical terms about how God must be doing this but not that, when in reality he may be doing this and that and that, and that and. . . ? But he is trustworthy; we know that, for he sent his Son to suffer on our behalf.You can read the rest here.