Tension | Several years ago, when I went through a period of prolonged suffering and confusion, I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile my experience with the loving will of God. On the one hand, I wanted to believe that God didn’t condone the sin that led to my pain and that He empathized with my sadness. On the other hand, I knew that He was sovereign and could’ve prevented what had happened. How was I supposed to hold both of these truths together?
Distinct | Thankfully, the Bible has two clear and distinct understandings of “the will of God.” First, there is “the will of God” that refers to His sovereign control over all things  – even things that He hates . For example, although the murder of Jesus was the greatest sin ever committed, it was also the will of God . In this sense, “the will of God” can never be thwarted; it always happens . Second, there is “the will of God” that describes what He commands us to do. For example, He wills that we practice holiness and thankfulness and sexual purity  – yet we know that many of us don’t do these things. In this sense, “the will of God” can be broken; in fact, it’s broken every day.
Hope | Having these two understandings of “the will of God” meets our deep need in suffering. We need to know that God is in control and, therefore, able to work all things for good . We also need to know, however, that He empathizes with us and doesn’t delight in pain. We see this tension in Job. On the one hand, he acknowledges God’s sovereignty over his pain: “I was at ease, and he broke me apart” . On the other hand, he knows that God is his only hope: “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high. My friends scorn me; my eye pours out tears to God … If I make my bed in darkness … where then is my hope?” .
Prayer | Lord, Although we don’t understand everything about our suffering, we know that you are our only hope in it. In some ways, that seems frustrating because we know that you could’ve prevented our pain. But how can we hope in anyone else? You’re the only wise God and Jesus is our advocate. In you, our beds are in light, not darkness. Amen.