I spent longer-than-I-care-to-admit yesterday writing and editing a post that just wouldn’t come together. The more I tweaked the dumber it became until, finally, I closed the computer and went upstairs to fold clothes, a much more productive use of my time.
As I sorted through socks and tee shirts I turned on the news and was shocked by the footage coming from Oklahoma. I tweeted something about remembering the devastation wrought by a tornado that hit our area a few years ago but I quickly realized that while our devastation was indeed devastating it was nothing compared to the horror that Oklahoma is currently enduring. In fact the contrast was so stark I was a little embarrassed I’d drawn the comparison in the first place.
My heart breaks. Like you I grieve. I read of children being pulled from the rubble of their schools and tears spring to my eyes. It is unimaginable. Horrific. Tragic. Surreal.
In the wake of the tornado that swept through our town I stood a day or two afterwards at the scene of one of our hardest hit areas. I thought then that God’s sovereignty was no longer mere speculation nor academic reasoning. It was reality. It was personal. It was inescapable.
Disappointments, heartaches, struggles, tornadoes–these come to us all at some point, in sudden and swift devastation. Large scale destruction or small, private pain, we’ve all been there. What then? Where is God? Did He cause this difficulty? Allow it? Ignore it? I’ve asked these questions, and more, in the wake of God not acting how I thought He should or would.
Oh, I knew what the Bible taught. No serious student can deny the Bible’s repeated assertions of the sovereignty of God. Throughout its pages we are told of a God whose dominion reigns over all, that none can stay His hand, and that He works all things (ALL as in ALL) according to His will. Whatever He pleases, He does. He is Almighty God, the God of all power and all authority who upholds the universe by a mere word. His ways are not our ways, they are higher and beyond our capacity for understanding.
These are hard realities difficult to comprehend and to accept. Over time and by the grace of God, this truth, that God is sovereign, has become precious to me but its comfort was not easily learned.
First of all, whatever the confusing circumstance before me, it happened and I have to deal with it. I could wail and weep and shake my fist at heaven, and sometimes I did, sometimes it is good to do so, but the fact of the matter is: this thing, this heartache, this struggle, it happened.
And, so, since it happened then I had to think through the implications: it was either in God’s plan or it wasn’t. Either He willed it or He didn’t. This may seem an obvious conclusion but consider it for a minute. Was God surprised? Or did He know? If He knew, was He powerless? If He’s powerless then, really, what kind of God is He? Which is the greater comfort: a God who knew but couldn’t affect it or a God who knew and had a purpose and a plan? Is everything random and God is merely reacting or is there reason and purpose behind our pain?
As I consider these questions, I must remember His sovereignty is not separate from His other attributes nor does it trump them. Yes, He is sovereign but He is also good. And loving. And wise. He doesn’t lay aside His love in order to exercise His sovereign authority nor vice versa. Why a tornado? Who can know? But when faced with what I do not know, I can cling to what I do know: God is good. He bears our sorrows. There is future glory and the promise of heaven.
We may never understand in this life all that the Lord purposed through difficult and devastating happenings. His sovereign, absolute power reveals the humbling and humiliating truth that we are helpless before Him. He is gloriously, perfectly sovereign and we are desperately, hopelessly lost apart from Him. In other words, He is God and we are not.
Not only that but our sin condemns us, each of us, and not a one of us is sovereign enough to save herself. Because of our depravity we each deserve death. That you or I have breath for this day is only due to the grace of this sovereign God and, yet, He is faithful to save. Indeed, He sent His Son Jesus to demonstrate the depth of His love! While we were still sinners Christ died. By His death and resurrection He purchased eternal life in Him for we who believe.
Yes, He is all-powerful and sovereign over all and He saves His own to the uttermost. No matter what comes, we can know that nothing–nothing!–is able to separate us from His love for us.
While I would never dare to presume to dismiss the very real horror and overwhelming sadness of what is happening now in Oklahoma, I pray this hope sustains those suffering there. I beg the Lord for mercy and I ask for His grace and His comfort to strengthen those who must persevere through this heartbreaking and unimaginable loss. May they rest in the truth that He sees, He knows, and He saves.