One of my most oft used phrases when faced with trials, or even elation over triumphs, is, “God is sovereign!” Although it sounds simplistic, it truly isn’t when the layers of its meaning are revealed. God’s sovereignty is anything but trite as it covers any question we can summon up about any detail in any part of our lives. To thrive under the umbrella of it, with every fiber of our being, gives us the wisdom to piece together the problematic puzzles and understanding to tidy up the messes in our minds. Know Him through the study of Scripture , trust Him through the many phases of life, believe Him and the promises He makes, worship Him with the awe He deserves, and throughout all of this, let what His sovereignty means consume you.
What exactly does sovereignty mean though? Research it and test your beliefs against the definition as to whether you can submit yourself to the reality that He is the controller, the sustainer, the orderer, the supreme doer of all that occurs (Acts 17:24-28). How does that sit with you when pondering all the evil and wrongdoing that exists? Better yet, how does it play out when your experiences are uplifting and you’re feeling blissfully overwhelmed by the goodness and blessings He gives? Isn’t it fair to accept them all (Job 2:10), without hesitation, with the knowledge that He brings each and every one to fruition? “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Many Christians have come up with what I will, respectfully, label “excuses” for our God who ordains, primarily when the troubling issues of suffering arise. However, my firm conviction about who God is does not allow for me to offer excuses for Him when rationalizing all that goes terribly wrong. We can see the destroyer created and controlled in Isaiah 54:16-17 and Exodus 12:23, or that God sends an evil spirit in Judges 9:23 and 1 Samuel 16:14, that He not only permitted Satan to bring suffering upon Job, but suggested him (Job 1:8). He doesn’t require our well meaning defenses of Him when attempting to reconcile how evil is allowed, or in fact, ordained, under His reign.
Once our minds lead our mouths to speak of His holy and decreed will with even a hint implying that He is standing by, only allowing, not ordaining, we must return to Scripture to set our compasses right. Is He to blame for all of the sin and evil? The more pertinent question would be, is He to blame for all of the good and righteousness? Why yes, He is culpable for it all. “The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up” (1 Samuel 2:6; see also Deuteronomy 32:39). But, the caveat comes into play when we try to separate His goodness from the “badness,” because He can (and does) ordain evil and suffering without even a blemish on His name. Nothing He does isn’t fully holy, just, and righteous. A simple example is that God can be angry, but without any sin. In His anger, He has entire populations wiped out (the flood in Genesis, Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues in Exodus, the coming judgment revealed in Revelation), but still without any evil in Him. It’s understandable that we can’t wrap our finite minds around how that is possible, so again, we look to Scripture and believe, trust, and have faith in what He says (Joshua 23:15-16, Job 34:10-15 & 40:11, Psalm 139:16, Jeremiah 23:20).
We can, and should, be praising God in His glory when our lives are tough, when circumstances feel beyond our control, because He is in control. It is not right thinking to only offer up praises when things are going well, when we are getting what we want, when we feel like he’s answering our (sometimes) self serving prayers, but it is right to praise Him in the midst of all of our pain, suffering, disappointment, joy, gladness, and triumphs. This is the whole meaning of contentment (Phillipians 4:11-12). We, as I’ve said before, deserve to be damned to hell, but He, in His goodness has given us the ultimate gift of salvation. When our focus is primarily temporal, neglecting to see that our mortal lives are only a snippet of the eternal, we can become discouraged and fall into the trap of despair. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Solace in His sovereignty can be attained, although I’m still hopeful that it can be maintained. That is a true test of the maturity of our faith, to count it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2-4). Happiness is fleeting, joy in Him is ethereal; the two aren’t the same. We can find joy in our pain (Habakkuk 3:17-19), whatever that may be: death of a beloved family member or friend, sickness, depression, heartache over your adult child rejecting Christ, desperate attempts to conquer an addiction, history of or current physical/sexual/verbal abuse, debilitating poverty, or any crisis that challenges or tests your faith. Knowing that we’re not enduring suffering for no reason, which is most blatantly displayed in the crucifixion, we can rest assured that He’s got it covered and is never surprised by what occurs because He is not merely watching the play, He’s directing it.