FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Why does God allow Suffering? Dane Ortlund

with Dane Ortlund | December 26, 2023
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Why does God allow suffering? Dave Ortlund captures the meaning of Isaiah 25 & 26, exploring God's grace, fulfillment, and longing. Sometimes, even when we're in our physical homes, we feel lost. Discover where your heart truly belongs and uncover the real secret to contentment.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Does God allow suffering? Dave Ortlund captures the meaning of Isaiah 25 & 26. Find your heart’s home and the secret to contentment.

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Why does God allow Suffering? Dane Ortlund

With Dane Ortlund
December 26, 2023
| Download Transcript PDF

David Robbins: Hey, there. David Robbins here, President of FamilyLife.

Do you ever feel like your attempts to create a healthy family have fallen desperately short? Maybe you’re a single mom, and you’re lonely, or a frazzled dad, and you’re confused. I know for me, I have been that multiple times this year. Perhaps, [you are] a disappointed grandparent and can’t figure out how to recover lost time. I’m here to tell you, God is not finished writing your story.

FamilyLife Today isn’t a ministry designed for perfect families, provided by perfect families. Instead, we recognize fully that God comes alongside us in our brokenness. He restores us when we feel like we have nothing to offer. He perfects us, and His grace is sufficient when we feel the depths of our need. In doing so, He helps us cultivate godly homes.

We are joining God in redeeming families through FamilyLife Today. And right now, we’re in a season of replenishing the arsenal so that we can continue to serve as a resource to families next year. Please, while the matching challenge is active, do your part in helping other families become their best. God wants to use families like yours and like mine to communicate His love and compassion to moms, dads, grandparents, singles, and others.

I invite you to go to FamilyLife and get in touch with us today to give a gift toward the matching campaign. As you do, rest assured, God will multiple your gift to write new stories of redemption in families all across the world.

Dane: The promise of the gospel—what the Bible is telling us in Isaiah 25:8—is that all of the losses that you walked through life experiencing are coming back to you.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott. Your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson.

You can find us at

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: I’m excited. We’ve got Dane Ortlund back with us. He’s not sitting across the table in the studio, but we get to tune in to part two of a sermon we listened yesterday with Dane at his church.

Ann: If you read any of his books, one of my favorites is Gentle and Lowly.

Dave: Mine, too.

Ann: We’ve had him on several times. But we’ve never played any of his sermons from his Naperville Presbyterian Church. This one is one of those sermons.

Dave: Yesterday, we heard Dane preach on Isaiah 25, verse 6, which basically is about the New Heaven and the New Earth. The point is, Isaiah was telling us that our longings that are unfulfilled in this world will finally be completely satisfied in the next world.

Ann: Who doesn’t want that?

Dave: I know. Man, you talk about a hope for the resurrection! That’s where it is. But then, I’m going to tease it out a little bit, he’s going to talk about the resurrection in this next part of his sermon, so enjoy.

[Recorded Message]

Dane: Point number two: “Your heart will come home.”

Verse seven:

“And he will swallow up on this mountain

the covering that is cast over all peoples,

the veil that is spread over all nations.”

That’s an odd verse. If I said to you, “Could you please put lines two and three of that verse in your own words,” what would you say?

“…the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.” The words—in the Hebrew text, that’s exactly what it says.

Here’s the idea—and it was so much fun to wrestle with the Hebrew text and open up some good commentaries and discover what this text is saying in verse seven. The idea is that we will move from what [C.S.] Lewis called “the shadow lands” into solidity and substantiality and reality when we are in the risen state.

We tend to think—do you not think this way? I find myself thinking this way—that this world is the bright one and, in a future life, it’s going to be murkier, darker. We tend to think this world—this life on this planet; this life, though fallen—is the solid one, and the next one, our final one, is going to be less substantial, more shadowy and dream-like. We tend to think this world is where we are home and, in some future life, we’re going to feel a little bit out of place.

I want you to know today, it’s exactly the opposite. This world is the one where we are out of place. This life is where we are strangers or foreigners. One day, verse seven is saying, in the resurrection that God brings, the blanket of futility that is soaking and infecting everything in your life is going to be pulled back. That’s what is meant by this covering being pulled away.

Here's the way Motyer—looks like Mot-yer—Alec Motyer, “M-o-t-y-e-r”—my favorite commentator on Isaiah, if you want to get a commentary and follow along, that’s the one I would commend to you; he has two: a big one and a short one. Get the short one. Alec Motyer, explaining Isaiah 25:7, writes: “Until that day dawns, that resurrection day, the whole world is in the shadows.” The covering is going to be pulled back. “Until that day dawns, the whole world is in the shadows. We are born into it, and therefore, we do not recognize that what we call light is but twilight.”

Oh my! Did you get that? What we call light—this fallen life—when we get to the risen state, we’re going to look back and say—it’s like my phone tells me five-seventeen a.m. today was the sunrise. Think about what it was like outside at five [o’clock]: A little bit of gray; the light just starting. Nothing like what we’re looking at out there right now.

That’s what it will be like. Five a.m. on a mid-June morning, is like this life. Noon, on a sunny June day is what the resurrection existence is going to be like. The covering is going to be pulled back.

Do you remember that little place tucked into the end of Romans 13, where Paul says the same thing. “…you know the time—” Paul says in Romans 13, verse 11, “…you know the time,”—"that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Then he says [in] verse 12—Romans 13:12, “The night is far gone; the day is at hand.”

We’re living in human history and it’s like 4:30 a.m. When Jesus comes back it’s going to be daytime. We’re all going to wake up and be home. The covering, the veil, that lies over this world, that lies over your life, is going to be pulled back, and we will stand there astonished, blinking, looking around saying, “This is where I always wanted to be.” “Your heart will be home,” point number two. Your longings will be satisfied; your heart will come home.


Ann: This is FamilyLife Today. We’re listening to Dane Ortlund as he’s in middle of a sermon that he gave at his church. It never fails, whenever I listen to Dane Ortlund, whether it’s a sermon that he gave, or if he’s in studio, I cry.

Dave: You’re crying right now.

Ann: Because he makes the gospel and eternal life look so beautiful and appealing. I can’t wait to experience that.

Dave: Yes, and really all he is doing is saying, “This is what Scripture tells us.”

Ann: Yes.

Dave: Old Testament Scripture. I know we feel what he’s saying: “I don’t feel like this is home.” There are a lot of things about our life on planet Earth that feel great, but there’s this longing that “I’m not completely satisfied.”

Point one, he’s [saying], “You’ll never be satisfied here, but you will be there.” Point two is, “I thought this was home, but it doesn’t feel like home.” Then finally, what we were made for will be our final destination of home.

You talk about exciting. But he’s not done.

Ann: He’s not done.

Dave: There’s a third point, and here it is.

[Recorded message]

Dane: Thirdly and finally, and most wondrously, “Your pain will be reversed.”

Verse eight:

“He will swallow up death forever;

and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people…” —that’s you— “…he will take away from all the earth.”

Wow! Death will go away. No, not just go away, [but] be swallowed up. Then look, friends, at the next couple of lines, the second and third lines of verse eight here, which speak, in the second line, of your sadness going away, and in the third line, of your shame going away. Sadness (pain from within, tears); shame, reproach, disgrace (pain coming from without). “The Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” God will, Himself, the Bible says, “wipe away every tear.” He goes from face to face, from cheek to cheek; that’s what God is like.

Then, line number three, “…and the reproach…” Oh, wow! The pain of reproach; the reproach means the disgrace, the shame, of his people, “He will take away.” It does not say “the reproach will be taken away,” [but] “…He will take it away.” He will do it.

Everything that makes you turn red; every stabbing comment, ridiculing; people having a laugh at your expense; everything that you hate about yourself is going to fold back onto corresponding glory.

The point here, guys, is death—God resurrects death—and all that is a part of death or connected to it is going to be reversed, swallowed up. In other words, our hope—by which I don’t mean, “We hope,” but what we know is going to happen; t’s just not ours yet (here’s what I mean by resurrection)—is reversal and escalated restoration. That is the biblical doctrine of resurrection: reversal and escalated restoration.

Here’s what I mean by that. I would like to ask you to think about your life, okay? We’ve got lots of different ages. I want you all—I’m including you kids; I want you all—to think about your life. Would you not agree that your life began, basically, generally, by gains.

In other words, you started, and you gained physical size, and [you] grew. You gained language; you learned how to speak. You gained a family of some kind; parents or a parent. You continued to grow. You went through your teens—some of you aren’t there yet, but most of you have been—and you gained friends. You gained education; you gained knowledge. You were gaining; you were getting; you were acquiring; you were becoming bigger. Then it hits you, as you’re living your life, that it seems like actually, you’re losing more than you’re gaining.

Now, every one of us has a different, unique, individual journey. Some of us would say, “It was at a very, very young age when I experienced profound loss and heartache.” Here’s all I’m trying to point out. Our life starts as gains, and then, as you go through life, you start losing things.

You lose friendships. You might lose a marriage or a job. You might begin losing memory; your hair. My kids tell me, “Dad, your hair is not even turning gray anymore; it’s turning white now.” You put on pounds.

I’m 44. I’m probably a little over half done, if I live the length my grandparents did. Maybe I’m way more than half done. Who knows? As you go through life, what you realize is your life is closing in on you as the years go by. It’s coming in, and you begin to realize, “Oh, I’m actually never going to do that thing I dreamt about doing when I was 20. I’m never going to have that career I envisioned, or the body I wanted, or spouse I wanted; the financial stability that I expected; the health I assumed I would have.” Your life closes in.

Here's all I want you to walk out of here with today: do you not realize what the promise of the gospel is? What’s the promise of the gospel? You might say, “Forgiveness of sins.” Oh, yes, that’s right at the heart of it; but much more.

The promise of the gospel—what the Bible is telling us in Isaiah 25:8—is that all of the losses that you walked through life experiencing are coming back to you. Everything good you ever had and lost, and everything good you ever wanted and never had, you’re going to get.

There is no final sacrifice, if you’re in Christ. You get it all back. That’s what I mean by “reversal and escalated restoration.” This world is slipping through your (and my) fingers, but it’s all going to rebound and come bouncing back. This black and white world, this is the phantasmal, ephemeral one; and it’s going to come back in full, living color.

In other words, your resurrection is not a consolation, like when you get second or third place in a tournament, so you get a consolation prize, because you didn’t win. Your resurrection is getting everything back; supremely, God, and all your other longings and desires, as you come home.

I have just one last question as I close. How do you know for certain that that’s for you? The answer is: you say to God, “I don’t have what it takes.” That’s what it takes.

Why is Moab excluded throughout the passage? The answer, in verses 11 and 12 of chapter 25, is pride, by which the text means “self-resourced saving.” You don’t get in to this promise, so that this is your inevitable future, by pulling out a credit card or a checkbook. You get in by saying, “I have no payment. God, will You have me anyway?”

He says, “Those are the only terms on which you get in!” Because there was someone else, who would come about seven centuries after Isaiah was writing this, who was swallowed up by death on a cross, whose longings went unmet so that yours, though not deserving it, can be met. The Lord Jesus made the payment on your behalf.

The point of my sermon today is: you’re going to be okay.

Dave: This is FamilyLife Today, and that was Dane Ortlund preaching at his church in Naperville, Illinois. Let me tell you, when he said, “The point of my sermon is you’re going to be okay.” [Laughter] That is such a word that we need to know.

Ann: I need to hear that! Don’t you?

Dave: Yes, that’s why I [said], “It’s so simple; yet it’s profound.”


Ann: I think about our listeners in situations where you’re thinking, “No, I’m not.”

I remember reading this Scripture to my sister three days before she passed away, because I thought, “No, we’re not going to be okay.” But I do remember reading verse eight to her:

“He will swallow up death forever;

and the LORD God will wipe away tears from all faces,

and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the Lord has spoken.”

I thought, “She is going to be okay, because she has the best to come. She will be with Jesus in a few days.”

Dave: And her longings will be satisfied. She’ll finally be home, and death will be swallowed up.

My mom’s there.

Ann: My mom’s there.

Dave: My dad’s there.

Ann: My dad’s there.

Dave: My little brother’s there.

Ann: My sister’s there.

Dave: That is a word for all of us: “You will be okay.”

Ann: And we will be there one day. I think our longings—the closer we get, the stronger our longings are to be with Him.

Dave: What Dane is talking about is real. There is an after-life that’s eternity, and there’s a heaven, and there’s a hell. What we do here at FamilyLife Today is, we try every single broadcast to point people to Jesus, because that’s where we get to spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Ann: What we do matters—all of us! Not just us doing radio and podcasts, but all of us.

Those of you who are listening, first of all, thank you.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: We couldn’t do this program without you and your prayers. But also, some of you have never given. We would really encourage you to become a part of our team financially, as well.

Dave: Let me quote Jesus where He said, “Don’t store up your treasures on earth where rust and moth destroy…but put your treasure in heaven.” [Matthew 6:19-20, Paraphrased]

When you invest with FamilyLife, it’s eternal; it makes a difference. We’re not saying that to twist your arm; we’re saying that because your investment to jump in and become a partner with us financially and prayerfully changes eternity. You get to be a part of that.

Thank you. If you’ve never done it, jump in today.

Ann: As the year comes to an end, we would love it if you would pray about becoming one of our partners.

Dave: And your investment will be doubled.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Dane Ortlund on FamilyLife Today.

Yes, that’s right. Thanks to some generous donors, just as Dave and Ann were talking about, every gift that’s given this month is going to be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to three million dollars.

You can help us take advantage of those donors’ generosity and give today. You can do that by going online to and clicking on the “Donate Now” button on the very top of the page, or you can give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

When you do give, as our thanks to you, we’re going to send you a copy of Trillia Newbell’s 52 Weeks in the Word. With the start of the new year coming up, it’s a good time to renew your commitment to getting into the Scriptures, and this book will really help you with that. Again, you can go online to

Coming up tomorrow, not many people think about the theology of joy and laughter in faith, but Amberly Neese is going to be here with Dave and Ann Wilson to talk about just that. [With] a stand-up comedian, it’s going to be a different and really fun show. I hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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