The Meaning of All Misery

“Therefore, the meaning of all misery in the world is that sin is horrific. All natural evil is a statement about the horror of moral evil. If you see a suffering in the world that is unspeakably horrible, let it make you shudder at how unspeakably horrible sin is against an infinitely holy God. The meaning of futility and the meaning of corruption and the meaning of our groaning is that sin — falling short of the glory of God — is ghastly, hideous, repulsive beyond imagination.

Unless you have some sense of the infinite holiness of God and the unspeakable outrage of sin against this God, you will inevitably see the futility and suffering of the universe as an overreaction. But in fact the point of our miseries, our futility, our corruption, our groaning is to teach us the horror of sin. And the preciousness of redemption and hope.”

– John Piper, “Subjected to Futility in Hope, Part 1” (sermon preached at Bethlehem Baptist Church on April 22, 2002)


Whew – heavy!

These paragraphs precede the above quote – it might help if you find the conclusion difficult to digest.  Actually, it turns out the OFI guys took out the “Therefore,” from the above quote (which I put back in).  I think a little more context helps:

“It is amazing how many Christians are so desperate to remove God from the suffering in the world that they are willing to become “deists” in order to keep God out of the equation. A deist was a person who thought of the universe as created by God and then set apart like a clock to tick on its own with no divine interference. Everything was explained in terms of merely natural laws, not divine decrees.

The saints of God have not gotten comfort from that vision. It is not a biblical vision. The biblical vision is given in verse 20: “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope.” The miserable condition of the world today – its futility and corruption and groaning – are owing to the judicial decree of God in response to sin.”

Finally, here’s the conclusion of this sermon:

“[D]on’t overly personalize your suffering. Don’t assume that this is some particular punishment or result of a particular sin. Search your heart in the time of pain. Let it make you serious and vigilant and humble. But don’t add misery to misery that is not intended. The whole creation groans. It is a general divine decree on the whole world. And Paul’s point is: even the precious children of God must suffer with Christ in it.

So let us humble ourselves and take our share of suffering with patience and hope. Because we consider with Paul that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us.”

Of course, it very well might be the case that we sometimes do reap the consequences of sinful behavior or even thoughts (which can work themselves out in subtle ways in our behavior) – God does promise to discipline His children, after all.  And there are natural consequences to some sins – C.S. Lewis’s illustration of falling on the ice when you don’t exercise wisdom comes to mind.  But I think Piper’s words are encouraging in the sometimes all-too-frequent instances in life where one might be tempted to search for a specific “reason” for something horrible happening in your own life or in the life of someone you love.


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