Why does a good God allow suffering?

Picture used with permission from Evangelical Press 

One question begs another. How does God work in the world? 

Sometimes he uses people. 

One such individual was William Cowper, (curiously pronounced ‘Cooper’, although to me the phonetic alternative is more pleasing on the ear) was born on 15 November 1731 in the family home at Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England. His father, Dr John Cowper was not only the rector, but also the chaplain to King George II. William’s biographical details have been variously chronicled down the generations as he became known as one of England’s greatest poets. 

Sadly, he struggled all his life with debilitating depression which gave rise to suicidal thoughts and actions. Mercifully, the latter failed again and again. Surrounded and supported by friends, (including John Newton the former slave trader turned evangelical preacher), this hugely gifted, troubled gentleman penned some of the most wonderful, yet poignant, poems and hymns. 

Into our rich language Cowper donated the phrase, ’God moves in mysterious ways…’ Invariably, this is trotted out nowadays by all and sundry when either trying to give some sort of comfort, or when not wishing to converse too deeply. Or maybe using it when really wanting to say, “I’ve no idea why that happened!”

In the midst of all his troubles, God was not absent from his life. Despite all his mental trials and deep struggles, Cowper came to know the One True Living God through the redemptive work wrought by Christ on the cross.

'There is a fountain filled with blood,

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins.

And sinners plunged beneath that flood 

Lose all their guilty stains.’

Today, Cowper draws us close through words, inviting us to turn his verse into personal prayer and praise to our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:  

‘O for a closer walk with God,

a calm and heavenly frame,

a light to shine upon the road 

that leads me to the Lamb.


Where is the blessedness I knew

when first I saw the Lord?

Where is the soul-refreshing view

of Jesus and His Word?


What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!

how sweet the memory still!

But they have left an aching void

the world can never fill.


Return O holy Dove! return, 

sweet messenger of rest!

I hate the sins that made Thee mourn,

and drove Thee from my breast.


The dearest idol I have known,

whate’er that idol be,

help me to tear it from Thy throne,

and worship only Thee.


So shall my walk be close with God,

calm and serene my frame;

so purer light shall mark the road 

that leads me to the Lamb.'

God has used William Cowper to minister, through his suffering, to countless individuals who have found comfort, inspiration and often spiritual insight through his copious writings which have pointed towards the God who can be known. 

I commend them to you for your perusal and edification.