As a believer you may ask yourself: does the suffering that I experience come from God or from Satan? According to the following texts from God’s Word, it can come from both: “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalms 103:19). And: “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity …” (Isaiah 45:6-7).
God can stop Satan. This is evident from a statement made by Jesus in the parable of the Good Shepherd: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10). “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28). Above Satan is an Almighty God, Who ultimately has all things under His control.
Everything is under God’s control
Jesus says in Matthew 10:30-31 “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.” If we then end up in a storm, when suffering hits us, we, as His children, need not fear. Although we may well ask: why is this happening to me? Such a question may well frighten you as you feverishly search for an answer, as in vain you search for a reason. Then you could pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart (…); see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
In the book of Job, Satan is the instigator of Job’s suffering. Although God is not the cause of his suffering, He does allow it. God even goes so far as to direct Satan’s attention to Job: “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’” (Job 1:8). And then Job is hit by suffering – Satan asks God to stretch out His Hand and strike Job in all that he has (see Job 1:13-20); then Job will curse Him.
Job decides to remain faithful to God and to cling to his faith in Him, despite the many moments of frustration, discouragement and fear that sometimes caused him to say rash things and even to doubt God’s goodness. But in spite of everything, his faith in God is not shipwrecked. God’s honor is at stake. Job says to his friends, “But He knows the way that I take. When He has tried me, I shall come out as gold … I have kept His way and have not turned aside.” (Job 23:11).
Like Job, we too may be tested. But in all our trials, God seeks not only His own honor, but at the same time the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). What “good” could that be? Through a path of intense suffering, God can bring us to greater spiritual maturity, something that could not possibly be achieved in any other way. Who am I to think I can grow spiritually without enduring suffering? Even the sinless Son of God “learned obedience through what He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). That is why He can empathize with us when we have to endure suffering. Because of the suffering that we experience, we can understand and comfort suffering people better (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Bitter or better
Knowing that our trials, devised by Satan, are permitted by God for His glory and for our salvation, let us take advantage of that insight, by submitting to God and letting the suffering refine us. For it either make us bitter or better. The choice is ours. The course of our life is not determined by “storms” that plague us, but by the position of our rudder! And that requires perseverance and trust (Psalm 37:5). James focuses on the endurance of Job, saying, “… you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). What God ultimately intends for us, will benefit us!
On this side of eternity, we can never fully understand why God sometimes seems to let Satan win. But we may hold fast to His promises and have this assurance: God is sovereign and has all power in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).