The School of Suffering & the Knowledge of God

The school of suffering must make us increase in the knowledge of God….

As long as we have only started on the way to the cross, we fancy ourselves the main object at stake; it is our happiness, our honor, our future – and God added in. According to our idea we are at the center of things, and God is there to make us happy.  The Father is for the sake of the child.  And God’s confessed Almightiness is solely and alone to serve our interest.  This is an idea of God which is false through and through, which turns  the order around and, taken in its real sense, makes self God, and God our servant.

For this false knowledge of God the cross (i.e. suffering) removes all foundation.  Cast down by your sorrow and grief, you become suddenly aware that this great God does not measure nor direct the course of things according to your desire; that in his plan there are other motives that operate entirely outside of your preferences.  Then you must submit, you must bend.  You stand before it in utter impotence, and from this selfsame heaven, in which thus far you saw nothing but the play of light and clouds, darkness now enters into your soul, the clap of thunder reverberates in your heart, and the flaming bolt of lightning fills you with dismay.

This is the discovery of God’s reality, of his Majesty which utterly overwhelms you, of an Almightiness which absorbs within itself you and everything you call yours.  And for the first time you feel what it is to confront the living God.  Now you know him!

And then begins the new endeavor of the soul, to learn to understand this real God.  Then begins the questioning, the guessing, the pondering, why this Almighty God should be the way he is and do the things he does.  Then the troubled heart seeks this in the after-effects of the past.  It seeks this in the purpose for which the cross was laid upon us, and in the fruit which it shall bear in the unraveling of eternity.  For a long time it still remains the endeavor of finding the explanation of God’s doing solely and alone in ourselves.

Then the soul makes a still further advance.  It abandons the theory of Job’s friends and, like Job, receives the answer from God himself out of the whirlwind.  It now learns to understand how God’s appointment covers all suns and stars, all hours and centuries, and causes all creatures to revolve themselves around him, the Eternal One, as the one and only center; and, therefore, his council and plan are as high as heaven and consequently exceeded our comprehension.  It learns that, not the verification of his council, but entering into the life of it, whether  it be through joy, whether it be through sorrow, is our honor and the self-exaltation of our soul.

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), excerpt from “To Be Near Unto God” in Nancy Guthrie, Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose & Provision in Suffering, 75-79.

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Filed under Christian Thinking, Church History, God, Knowledge of God, Sovereignty, Suffering, Theology

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