Thursday, 15 February 2018

Lent 2: The difficult (and comforting) doctrine of a soveriegn God.

'Everything is needed that he sends; nothing can be needful that he withholds' (John Newton).

Gosh!  These are big words.  'Everything' and 'nothing'.  God in control of all things.  Can we really accept this?  These words are meant to bring us comfort, but they can leave us perplexed.

This week I went to see friends whose son died by suicide.  How do we speak of a sovereign God in a situation like that?  What possible good could God have in mind through that young man's death?  It all seems to much!

But then I am reminded of Simon Peter.  Confronted with hard teaching, that lead many to reject Jesus, he exclaimed, 'where else can we go?  You have the words of life!' (John 6:66).

Where else can we go when we are confronted with the difficult doctrine of the sovereignty of God?  What is the alternative?  Would it really be better to believe that our suffering was pointless?  Would it really be a comfort to think that we had a weak God who looks on helplessly as our circumstances are tossed about on the waves of chaos?

Before Christmas I had a small breakdown.  As I lay in bed shivering with anxiety, I did think, 'God must have a purpose in this!'  I am not sure that brought any comfort at that moment.  But in the last couple of weeks (days characterised by varying degrees of depression) I have had times when there has been no better realisation that God knows what he is at and he will bring good out of this.  

I can't speak easily into the lives of people who have suffered far more painful things than I have.  I can't tell them that I know how they feel.  I certainly don't expect them to be able to easily embrace the sovereign rule of God.  But I do know that the alternative to a sovereign God is terrifying.  May God give us the strength to find comfort in the fact that he can be trusted!

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