Thursday, July 16, 2015

Choices and Sovereignty

“Really, God? You’re sure I needed this today, on top of everything else?”  Have these words ever come out of your mouth? If not, have they been in your head? They were certainly in mine the other day, as I sat on the pool deck, having fallen hard after my foot slipped on the wet concrete. I am always talking to God, and that is especially true when I am in pain or trial. And I was most certainly in pain at that moment. Rather than seeking comfort from Him though, I was demanding an explanation.

That morning, as I drove to the pool, I had been thanking Him that my leg has been feeling a bit stronger lately, and I’ve been able to do a little more. As I drove, I was singing a praise song along with the radio, and just feeling quite content and happy. I really enjoyed the exercise that day, and felt very grateful that I am still able to do it.

On this particular day, I’d had a really good cardio workout in the 12 foot diving well. I was feeling great, and thought I’d go over to the 50 meter pool and swim a few laps to wrap up my workout. I climbed the ladder and headed over to the other pool. I spotted my pool shoes in my peripheral vision and considered putting them on but then I thought, “Nah, it’s not far. I’ll just be careful.” Famous last words. Down I went, and as soon as I was sure there were no broken bones, the words at the beginning of this post came to my mind.

I’m all about the sovereignty of God, as you know if you’ve read many articles here. If God had not wanted me to fall, I would not have fallen. So, in a sense, my question to God was legitimate, if not posed in the most reverent way. Apparently, He had ordained, for His own reasons, that I should fall at that moment. But can I really blame it all on Him? If I had had my rubber-soled pool shoes on, I probably would not have lost traction and fallen. Whose fault is it that I didn’t have my pool shoes on? Mine.

So, how do we harmonize these two things: God’s sovereignty and our responsibility? Well, in this particular instance, God was sovereign over the properties of water and concrete—water is slippery and concrete is hard. He provided the pool shoes for me, along with the wisdom to know I should put them on. In other words, He provided everything I needed in order to prevent that fall. But He also gave me freedom to assert my own will within His limits. He created me in His image: A creature with will and the ability to choose. Therefore, I exercised that will and chose not to put the shoes on, and I fell.

I’m not saying that God didn’t ordain the fall, for my good and His glory. However, I cannot put all the responsibility for my mishap on Him. I made a choice, and I am responsible for that choice. My point in all this is to remind you that, as we struggle with pain, disability, and other trials, we need to be careful not to adopt a fatalistic attitude about it all.

We do have some responsibility as we manage these difficulties that we face. I could have walked away from my fall thinking, “Well, I guess God intended for me to get hurt today. He probably thought I was just too happy, and doesn’t want me to be so satisfied with life in this world. I’d better stop enjoying the things of the world, or God will get me again.” Though this sounds extreme, it is not too farfetched if we are not careful when we think about God’s sovereignty.

So, what’s the right way to think about that fall? “God loves me, and I am thankful that, in spite of my foolish carelessness, He did not allow any bones to be broken, and there were no serious injuries. I am thankful for this, and for the wisdom He has given me. Next time, I will use that wisdom and put those shoes on!” Even when we choose our will over His wisdom, He still loves us, still protects us, still teaches us. Hallelujah! What a Great Creator! What a Savior!