The sovereignty of God, how he acts in his creation, is a subject with which I have wrestled during my forty-one years of ministry. My struggle with God’s sovereignty became more keen during my grandson Sully’s thirteen month battle with leukemia ending in his death on August 1, 2008 at fifteen months old. There are a number of opinions and a host of variations of these as to God’s sovereignty and the exercise of his sovereignty. What follows is not a study of any particular text or group of texts in Scripture. Rather it is my heart speaking, sharing what I believe. These beliefs on the sovereignty of God I shared in a post on July 19, 2009 on my site in honor of Sully, www.caringbridge.org/visit/sullivanbubbyfarrar. Here is my faith from my heart, trying to be rooted in Scripture, still questioning, still struggling, but ever trusting God’s compassions are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.
First, things happen. There is suffering that is simply the result of the natural processes of life in this physical world. You misstep and fall off a ladder. Gravity makes you fall. The concrete below is much harder than your body. The processes which bless us with sunshine and rain, warmth and cold, also cause hurricanes and tornadoes. Sin brought a brokenness into creation, an oppressive bondage to decay (Romans 8:20-21). Diseases of all kinds are the result of this brokenness and decay or are simply a result of the natural processes of life or both. People inflict pain and suffering on other people, purposely or through carelessness or thoughtlessness or accidentally. War, crimes, anger, and hatred injure and kill, physically and emotionally, the intended victims and the innocents in the way. Modern medicine works so many wonders. I am alive today because of modern medicine’s advances. Yet by those very advances we are placed in situations where life and death decisions are made that once were not options. Sometimes as we fight for life, as we make those heart-wrenching, no-one-should-have-to-make decisions, the unintended result is more suffering. (No one has the right to judge anyone who is put in this position and the decisions made.) We make choices with our lives, in everyday situations, sometimes very neutral and benign decisions such as which street to use to reach our destination. Occasionally such benign choices result in circumstances that strike our lives with horrible disaster.
Second, God does not micromanage everyone’s life. Not everything is the result of God’s purpose, plan, and will. Some are comforted to believe God always has an intended purpose in a child’s cancer or a child’s death. I am outraged if that is true. I do believe God is able to redeem such suffering through the suffering of Christ.
Third, Satan is real. As in the biblical story of Job, Satan does actively cause pain and suffering in this world.
Fourth, God gives us the freedom to live. He doesn’t shut us up in our bedrooms to keep us safe. With this freedom is risk, but it is necessary to our growth as human beings.
Fifth, God may indeed at times purposely bring or allow bad things to happen to a person to accomplish discipline or growth or repentance, whatever is needed to preserve that person’s faith. As I hope it is clear above, I do not believe this is the normal way in which God works. I am very slow to attach this to any particular event in a person’s life. All any of us is able to know with certainty is that now is happening, whether death or disease or cure. We do not know the behind the scene cause or reason. Job never knew why. Hebrews 12:1ff comes to mind.
Sixth, I know God loves us with a love unlike any other.
Seventh, I know God has a definite purpose for my life and for yours—that we might place our faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected and come to knowledge of the salvation which is in Christ.
Eighth, I know God has a definite purpose for those who come to such faith—to conform them to the image of his Son and bring them to eternity.
Ninth, I know, whatever the causes, God will use the circumstances of our lives, good or evil, to accomplish his purpose for us and to glorify his name (the redemption mentioned above).
Tenth, I know, whatever happens, God’s love never forsakes us. For this and also point six through nine Romans 8:28ff is foundational to my understanding and belief.
I continue to question, to struggle, but I continue to trust God’s compassions are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.