When God’s Sovereignty Feels Mean

21 Apr

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.


Sovereignty.  God is the ruler of the Universe, and is free to do whatever he wants. He is in complete control over everything that happens here on Earth. God’s will is the final cause of all things.

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 stood behind the 1,000-year-old church behind my house in England, and I told Him that He was mean. **

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. 

That’s sovereignty. 

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.


 

Sovereignty.
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.

Leigh

 

 


**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.

10 Responses to “When God’s Sovereignty Feels Mean”

  1. Stephanie April 21, 2020 at 12:07 pm #

    Wow friend. This is such a good picture of our good God that never intended any of this death and destruction. When I was younger I used to wonder why my grandmother longed for heaven so much. Then a got a few big doses of sin and its consequences from my own sin and the sin of others dear to me. Now the same longing is building in my heart. Thankful God has not abandoned us and given us all what we deserved! Love you!

    Like

    • the PRIME pursuit April 21, 2020 at 2:26 pm #

      Yes. The older we get, the less wonderful things look here on earth…we long to be on the other side, not only for ourselves but for everyone else who is suffering too. I am thankful he has spared us from so so much more than we can imagine…i do believe he holds so much evil back. miss you!

      Like

  2. Laura Carlton April 22, 2020 at 1:09 pm #

    THIS is real life relationship with God….right here!! It does feel mean….it feels like unbelievable death– emotionally, spiritually, and physically…we WANT to die…but we don’t. I’ve asked Him to kill me….He didn’t. I know from experience….now….that He hears my cries…and after a time (certainly different for everyone) I look back and realize that I am better…I feel better….I’ve got better things to say…healthier thoughts to think…and has He wrought a new dimension within my heart and soul

    Like

  3. JANE ANNE CARLTON April 22, 2020 at 1:51 pm #

    Thanks for pointing out the nature of sin. I’ve been with CS Lewis all year, and he deals with this in The Problem of Pain quite a bit — in many of his works, actually. I appreciate your pointing out again that Sovereign God did not intend all this badness. Evidently I need to learn about sin — but more importantly to remember God’s cracking open the world — literally with a break in time and space and our measly human understanding of our physical world — with Jesus’ resurrection.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Melissa Garrison April 23, 2020 at 10:57 am #

    Real and Raw. I feel like your reading my diary. Except I’m not where you are at the end yet. The onslaught hasn’t ended, it’s one thing after another for the past 10 years. I wrestle with literally thinking that the Lord wants good for all but me, that he hates and despised me.

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    • the PRIME pursuit April 23, 2020 at 11:14 am #

      We must listen to only the true things and doubt our doubts. This is an endless journey and I think comes much easier for some than others. But— well done for staying faithful and trusting—in the face of bad circumstance-dominoes. I am also thinking a lot about the idea that I may just have to learn to move through life in pain—accept it as the norm instead of waiting for it to lift—thanks for your comments—(i am not *all* the way through with it, btw, but i published anyway)

      Like

      • Melissa Garrison April 28, 2020 at 9:03 am #

        John 6:66-69 “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We believed and have come to know You are the Holy One of God.”

        This is how I live through these hard times. To whom else would I go when I know that he alone is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. There is no one else to turn to.

        About two weeks ago I was reading a devotion with Christian and it was Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 where he asks for the thorn in his flesh to be taken away 3 times and the Lord says “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”. I know I’ve read that at least 100 times in my lifetime but this time it was different. I realized that I may not be “healed” on this earth. That I can’t sit around and wait for that healing but I have to live on in spite of it and hopefully it will one day bring glory to God.

        When I was going through breast cancer I thought a lot about God’s sovereignty. When we think about him doing “good for all those that love him” sometimes we mistake this with our “happiness”. But, the way I feel like he was leading me at that time, was it is not about our happiness. Happiness is so temporary. So his “good” is his refining fire that refines all the yuck out so we can be more like him. Because ultimately, it is about bringing glory to God. When our struggles help point people back toward him. I’m reading Through the Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot. It certainly wasn’t for “happiness” that her husband, and the other husbands died by the spear in the Amazon trying to reach the Auca people for Christ. But it WAS for Christs glory because several of the wives stayed and one son grew up and they continued to minister to the Aucas and bring them to Christ. So the loss of life was not in vain, but it was for God’s glory and ultimate purpose. That is what we are here for, we can not tell the potter how to mold us, it is to his discretion so that others might come to him.

        We can encourage each other through these things though and I thank you for being so open. In the days of social media it can seem like your walking the pit alone while everyone is living their best life. Blessings to you!

        Like

      • the PRIME pursuit April 30, 2020 at 2:07 pm #

        Melissa, your experience is something most of us can not imagine or sympathize (empathize?) with. The lesson you have gleaned from it was so expensive to you and your family. I think it is so important for us to share our heart because now more than ever, we feel alone in our darkness—people just are not willing to be this vulnerable with one another.
        One of my most disappointing bible passages is in Luke 7: 18-23. It is the discourse where John is stuck in prison and sends his friends to ask if Jesus was really the messiah, or it was someone else. (Doubting everything he knew.) And Jesus’ response was: blessed is he who doesn’t fall away on account of me. Whoa. That’s cold, Jesus! I feel sooooo bad for John the baptist. Even he struggled with having his own life on earth be made better. We must resign ourselves to the fact that it isnt about us…and I think the sooner we do it, the better we have the world in the right perspective, and we will never ever get permanently bitter–because we have the right expectations about what this world is going to be. I struggled with the fact that All god cares about is his own glory, on the big picture scale. Therefore the only thing that matters is that I sit down, shut up, and give endless lip service to him.

        But he reminded me that while he is the God of the macro/big picture, he is also the god of the Micro/small picture. He works in both arenas, and therefore my life, my heart and my feelings are very very important to him, and he is patiently walking alongside me, filling me with the grace I need to do today well.

        You are bringing glory to god, and we are not able, in our humanity to do it perfectly. we have a glimpse of what that should look like, yet can in no way attain it in our humanity. We are doing so well to be checking in with him day after day –in spite of our feelings.

        Like

  5. Anonymous April 27, 2020 at 11:08 am #

    I have written about spiritual struggles in the face of deep pain, and after many years of reflection, it is not lost on me how quickly I’ve shaken my unholy finger at God. More than anything, I have been so grateful for a Father who loves me and waits patiently. Who knows I’ve lashed out because ultimately He is safety in any storm. He can handle it all as I tear and heal while crawling towards holiness. It’s slow. It is often painful. But His grace knows no end and His mercy is spilled out for me before I even ask. Thanks for sharing sweet friend.

    Like

    • the PRIME pursuit April 27, 2020 at 1:34 pm #

      🙂 Thanks for sharing this with me. It’s a crawl, for sure. And what stinks is that while I am crawling, my flesh is screaming “I don’t want to be holy anyway!!!” Such proof that we are in fact, sealed by the Spirit…that in spite of our rebellion, we remain in his grip, in his loving, gentle guidance.

      Like

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