Just recently, our home group experienced a special evening of prayer where we spent an unusually long time opening our hearts to God in worship, calling out to Him for others in intercession, and then spending considerable time bringing our own needs to Him in honest confession and acknowledgement of our need.
At one point, and I believe it was during the time of intercession, the question of God’s sovereignty came up as we prayed. The scope of the consequence of our view of God’s sovereignty is enormous. For some, it’s a very narrow view which is inclined to believe that God simply pulls the strings and manipulates the events of our lives as if we were some sort of lifeless marionette which God controlled completely. This view is obviously very limiting, if not deterministic and seems to imply that everything in life happens as dictated by God. There’s a course and a plan that He has in mind and nothing will change it. God is at work and we are just passive observers on the journey.
There’s something about the reality of suffering and loss which forces us to look carefully at this conviction. If this is truly what sovereignty is then it’s very difficult to understand God as a loving being who wants our best and who cares intimately about everything that happens to us. (See Matthew 6:25-32)
People that I have come to know who have navigated their way though loss whether physical, relational, emotional or personal, are the ones who understand that God’s sovereignty encompasses all of life, that is, not simply the tragic experiences but how we respond to them in a redemptive way.
In a sense, belief in God’s sovereignty can actually give us a sense of security knowing that God is in control, but also allows us the responsibility of exercising our freedom to make wise choices and to remain faithful to Him despite our lack of understanding of circumstances around us. In effect, it assures that God is in control, even transcendent, without cancelling out the role we have been given to choose to trust Him.
A close seminary friend of mine has written about this paradox in a profound and deeply compelling book entitled “A Grace Disguised” where he details his own journey through the loss of his mother, wife and a daughter in one horrific traffic accident caused by a drunk driver a number of years ago. In the end, Jerry has come to see life differently because of the accident and has chosen to allow God to enlarge his soul through the process of grief and loss rather than to pull away and give up on the one source of hope, which is the presence of God in all things, which is where he and his remaining family could find peace.
In the end, that’s what I would encourage anyone who is going through a time of profound suffering or loss to consider. We can’t promise that God rules all things in a way that we would desire, but we do know the promise is certain that the Lord our God will never leave us or forsake us and that in His presence we find peace. It is peace in the midst of suffering that ultimately conquers the loss and sustains the hope that will carry us into eternity.