The following is from a message (on Job 1-2) preached by David Platt at Brook Hills in 2008. It includes some very deep and biblical thoughts on God’s design and purpose for suffering. Does God wish to prevent suffering, but He can’t (open theism), does He allow suffering in our lives, or does He actually design and sovereignly control suffering? Most people would choose the second option as to how God interacts with our suffering. The first option is a heresy, essentially, and proposes a small and weak God. The third option is what Platt advocates here, and I believe that the Bible backs him up:
“God’s sovereign design for our lives on this earth includes suffering. Now I emphasize the word “design” there because I think the picture here in Job 1–2 is deeper than God just allowing suffering. There’s definitely a picture of permission here, but I believe it’s deeper than that. There’s a design here that God has designed suffering in Job’s life.
Think about it: Who initiated Jobs’ suffering in chapter 1? God did. Did you catch it? Verse 8, “Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil’ ” (Job 1:8). One author put it this way. It’s like a diamond thief coming into a jewelry store and walking around the store, looking at everything, getting to the back of the store and meeting the owner and the owner knows he’s a thief and the owner says, “What are you doing?” And the diamond thief says, “I’m looking around the store to see all the diamonds.” The owner says, “Well have you seen my most prized diamond in front? It’s the most valuable diamond we have, the most precious diamond we have,” and he shows him where it is and talks about it knowing that he’s a thief.
This is the picture we’ve got, the Lord giving and the Lord taking away, the Lord bringing good and the Lord bringing trouble. God has designed this whole picture. It’s all coming directly. Yes, there’s a work of Satan going on but ultimately this is the work of God. This is hard to really get our minds around…
Revelation 2, God’s sovereign design for our lives actually includes suffering. Look at Revelation 2. This is when Jesus is speaking to the different churches and he’s speaking here to the church in Smyrna and He is actually encouraging them in their faith amidst trial and suffering. Listen to what He says. We’ll start in verse 9 and then see it very clearly in verse 10. Look at Revelation 2:9, “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9). Listen to verse 10, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). You see what’s going on there? God’s saying you’re going to suffer. Be faithful in the middle of your suffering. There’s a crown of life waiting at the end of this picture.
You see very, very clearly in Scripture that following God does not mean absence of suffering. But God’s design for our lives may actually include more suffering. This is gospel. Don’t miss this. Did God just allow Jesus to go to the cross or did He design for Jesus to go to the cross? Was He sitting back thinking, “Well I guess, okay, this is the way it’s going to work out and I guess I will let this happen?” No, from the very beginning it was God’s design to take the suffering of His one and only Son and bring about the salvation of your soul and my soul. It was His very design for His Son to suffer.“