One of the most difficult questions men and women wrestle with is why a Sovereign God permitted and/or ordained sin and suffering to enter into the world through Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, when He was fully capable of preventing this sin.
Perhaps we can take a point from the Joseph story, in Genesis 39-50, and overlay it on the Garden of Eden to answer this question. Do you recall the story? I have been preaching through it and will get back to it in time. Joseph was sold into slavery and carried off into Egypt where he was rejected, imprisoned and eventually released to a position of prime minister by God’s sovereign intervention and grace. In the end of the historical account of God’s dealing with Joseph, Joseph makes this statement, “But as for you [the brothers who sold Joseph], ye thought evil against me [selling him, abandoning him]; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as [it is] this day, to save much people alive [from starvation and death]” 50.2.
Now it is very apparent to the reader of the entire story that God used Joseph to preserve his entire family, Jacob and the brothers, and the lives of thousands upon thousands in Egypt. We clearly see how God does take what was initially thought to be evil and work it to good.
However, have you ever considered the idea that God knew, before the foundation of the world, that He would take the sin that Adam and Eve meant for evil, when they sold their souls for a piece of fruit from a forbidden tree, and would use that evil as the means to display His glory by saving souls. And not just His glory but the greatest and most amazing display of glory through the innocent suffering of the Son of God, so that Adam, Eve and all those in the book of life may be redeemed to the praise and honor and glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
God did not use just sin; He also uses suffering. In fact, He introduced suffering into the universe. If suffering were not a part of the curse from the beginning of the fall, where would it come from to cause the Son of God to suffer? If there was no suffering in death we would not see Calvary the way we do when we fully and completely attempt to comprehend what it meant to undergo all that Christ endured on the cross. Suffering existed and presently exists to magnify what Christ did for man in His death. The words “I thirst” communicate extreme dehydration—suffering. When he said “my God, my God” mental anguish—suffering—is being communicated. When they beat Him with a whip He suffered. Without suffering, the beating is nothing. When He struggled to breathe, He was suffering. “Everything that Christ accomplished for sinners, He accomplished by suffering” Pastor John Piper. Suffering exists to magnify the grace of God to the glory of God. We must recognize that Jesus Christ should not have had to die. He did not deserve my wrath—He suffered for me. He was wounded for my sins; He was bruised or crushed for my iniquity—if there were no suffering associated with being wounded or crushed then the magnitude of what Christ did for me on the cross is lost. But this is not the case—in fact the opposite is the case—Christ suffered a most excruciating death undeservingly for all those who believe.
If there was no suffering, there would be no tears to wipe away. If there was no suffering what would we anxiously look toward. What would be the significance of a glorified body were it not for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and every other kind of suffering.
1 Peter 3:18, For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.
God used, uses and will use both sin and suffering to magnify the glory of His grace in the face of the Lord Jesus now and for all eternity. So the next time you see or hear of someone suffering, think about what suffering our Lord endured to bring about your redemption if you believe.