A friend of mine recently asked me to be a guest speaker for her Bible study group. They’re in a series on the attributes of God, and my assigned attribute was sovereignty. Since I was in the middle of an international move, I shot her a text on the fly, “yeah NP.”
Later, I took some time to think it through and I realized—oh DANG. The entire concept of the sovereignty of God is… touchy. I don’t think my friend realized the cosmic irony for ME to be talking about sovereignty, because I have been been stalled out on “God! You have no idea what you’re doing!” for quite a while.
Hmph. Well, that kind of divine sovereignty feels fantastic when paired with all the good stuff. Health, wealth, success, comfort. Of course He loves to make all that happen for us! God’s sovereignty is easy to receive, very comforting, and preaches real well off of this podium.
But what about the bad stuff? Where is He in all of that?
Some of us have been through some things. You know what I am talking about. Those things live just under the surface of our paper-thin facade, and the associated pain drips continually through our veins. And when you hold the bad things up next to the concept that God is sovereign over everything, it makes you want to back away from Him very, very slowly.
It’s painful to accept the sovereignty of God when you despise what has gone on in your life. It hurts. It feels like He has been disloyal to you and indifferent about your joy. Worse, it seems He is disinterested in the health of your heart and mind.
A couple of years ago, I was hurt—deeply. Not in my marriage, and it wasn’t disease or the death of a loved one. Honestly though, it stood fourth in line behind those three. We can call it a house of cards that came tumbling down. At first, it was easy to point fingers at exact people who caused this. But over time, my anger grew, the pain ballooned, and slowly the wires got crossed. I started pointing my finger right past the culprits. I pointed it straight through…to God.
My flow of thoughts went:
They didn’t cause this…God caused this…because He could have prevented it and didn’t…He actually wanted this to happen…sovereignty is cruel.
When this whole thing went down in my life, I just could not reconcile it with the continual thought, “Why would God want this to happen?!!”
I essentially kept telling God, “This is not loving of you.” Then He essentially told me, “You’re right. And the BAD THING…that was not me.” But I got stuck there.
The domino effects of my calamity caused my pain to grow exponentially over the course of the subsequent years. So many dominoes kept falling, to the point that I actually told God that I thought He was mean, and I didn’t even like His earth. Yeah. I said that. To God.**
I think the Lord allows us just to feel our feelings. Throughout our lives, our humanity and our spirituality clash. They will continue to clash until completeness comes. Even though I said those horrible things to God, He mercifully stayed nearby. After I felt everything…a lot…I became quieter and less distracted. Then, I did hear something:
You don’t feel peace with sovereignty because you don’t have the right view of sin. You don’t perceive sin properly. You don’t cower to its magnitude, its enormity, or its capacity. Until you have the right view of SIN, you will not feel safe with the Lord’s SOVEREIGNTY.
We cannot reasonably categorize all the bad that has happened without having the right view of sin. Sin absolutely trashed the world. All these bad things going on were not His plan. His plan was perfection, paradise, health, longevity, serenity, love, fellowship, communion.
None of this…none of the atrocities that have happened to me or you or anyone throughout human history should have happened.
Most importantly, God did not “want” this to happen.
But He can do something with it.
He isn’t sitting up there happy this happened so He can pay you back for the bad things you’ve done, or to give an angel the wings it earned, or to remind you continually that you deserve it and it could always be worse. No. The world He created had none of this. God did not want these bad things to happen, and He certainly did not cause them to happen—because He is only Love.
Yes, He allows it, because he doesn’t change the nature of sin’s impact. And He isn’t going to crack open the world every time some effect of sin is about to touch our lives. None of us get out of these dreadful effects…not even the Messiah himself. Let’s not forget that He was the victim of the worst sin ever to be committed in human history. We humans obliterated him. The Messiah came to instruct us how to love one another and live our best life…and we tore Him to pieces.
Jesus knew it was coming. Still, he double-checked with the Father by essentially asking God whether or not He knew what He was doing! So it’s okay to ask. It’s okay to hate your circumstances. It’s okay to grieve and writhe, and question. But it’s not okay to blame God for the sweeping consequences of sin. It is not God’s fault that we chronically forget the actual source of all pain, and that none of us under the sun, not even Christ Himself, get a free pass.
Actually: Yes we do!! We all get a free pass!! He did crack the world open! He reached in. He began the restoration of humanity through the first cosmic domino, a complete undoing of sin’s permanence: the resurrection of Christ and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Sovereignty is when despite our best efforts as humanity to kill His Messiah, we could not undo His plan of healing, resurrection, and restoration.
Just as God resurrected Christ and restored him, He will, in his timing, restore the dead places in your life both now and in the world to come.
This restoration is where the notion of His sovereignty feels safe, loving, and healing.
It is in the nature of God to bring restoration to us, at all costs.
Good will overcome, He will see to that.
Out of the awful, non sensical, outrageously unfair crap that happens, he brings restoration to our heart, mind, and soul. That’s sovereignty OVER the bad things. We must be watchful for how He resurrects that bit of death in our lives. In a lot of ways, this is a matter of humility. Are we willing to wait for it, see it, and accept it? It requires willingness to let go of the bad thing, place it in His hands, and allow Him to convert it into something good.
I am guilty of saying I don’t want to be used as a testimony of His goodness…I don’t want this sad thing to be part of my story, even if it brings good at some point. I only want the atrocity to never have happened, for the pain to go away, and for the bad stuff to come untrue. Actually, I get to have that too, on the other side. This is the opposite of mean.
I am starting to see some good things.
**Testimonial: I guess I was expecting some kind of catharsis; or that I was going to feel so relieved to get that all off my chest. Unfortunately, this kind of rage had no escape and only continued burning and festering. It went nowhere. So, yelling at God does not, in fact, release the steam valve. If anything, it was more exasperating to be on the other side of that outburst and feel no reprieve whatsoever.