Every Sunday, we will be going through one of the fifty-two Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the year 1563, the Heidelberg still remains a popular confession of faith in many churches to this day. You can find the full text here.
Lord’s Day Nine
Question 26: What do you believe when you say: “I believe in God the Father almighty,Creator of heaven and earth”?
Answer: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth and all that is in them,1
and who still upholds and governs them by His eternal counsel and providence,2
is, for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father.3
In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul,4
and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow.5
He is able to do so as almighty God,6
and willing also as a faithful Father.7
- Gen 1, 2; Ex 20:11; Job 38, 39; Ps 33:6; Is 44:24; Acts 4:24; 14:15.
- Ps 104:27-30; Mt 6:30; 10:29; Eph 1:11.
- Jn 1:12, 13; Rom 8:15, 16; Gal 4:4-7; Eph 1:5.
- Ps 55:22; Mt 6:25, 26; Lk 12:22-31.
- Rom 8:28.
- Gen 18:14; Rom 8:31-39.
- Mt 6:32, 33; 7:9-11.
“In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul, and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow.” To me, this is one of the most beautiful answers in all the Heidelberg, but it does not come without what some may see as controversy. Is God the Father really the sender of adversity?*** Surely not…right? Some have a difficult time reconciling the fact that God loves us with the fact that bad things happen to everyone, even Christians. Without reconciling these two ideas, we end up in a spot where we see everything that we don’t enjoy, want, or like as a work of Satan and everything that is comfortable, pleasing, and prosperous as from God. We have to understand that God is sovereign over every single thing that exist…including Satan and suffering.
Satan is a created being. He is not God’s equal. He is unable to sneak behind God and create mischief. God knows, and has known, everything that Satan is thinking, planning, and doing from all of eternity. We see in Job 1 that Satan needs permission from God to come against Job (we even see that it was God who suggested Job to him…hmmm). But wouldn’t this make God a cruel Father? By no means! God knows us fully, totally, completely, and perfectly. He knows what is needed to conform us to the image of Jesus, and it’s not always hugs and kisses. Sometimes suffering is necessary. Paul’s thorn was given to keep him from becoming conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7). The thorn was from God, but Satan’s messenger delivered it.
But why suffering and adversity? What does suffering produce in us? Romans 5:3-5 says:
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Suffering and adversity are a refining fire that God uses to shape and mold His people into the image of Christ. The God who is sovereign over suffering is also sovereign over the result of it. It is because He is sovereign that we can trust Scripture when it says that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29). “All things” is not just vacations and love notes. Sometimes “all things” is cancer. Sometimes it’s the loss of a loved one. Whatever “all things” is for believers in Christ, we can rest in the fact that anything that happens to us in this life first passed through the hands of the Father, and that it will be used for our ultimate good, even if I don’t understand it in the moment (or in this life). God the Father, who created heaven and earth “Ex Nihilo” (or “out of nothing”) is able to do so as almighty God, and willing also as a faithful Father.
“Suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you.” Tim Keller
***For a more in-depth look at this question in the Heidelberg, check out Andrew Wilson’s article “Does God Ever Send Adversity?”