Do you struggle with the doctrine of the sovereignty of God? If I’m honest, I have to confess that I do. I have often said to myself, especially when I am in pain, “God could have allowed that surgeon to do my operation perfectly, but he didn’t. I don’t understand why, if he could spare his children suffering, he doesn’t. Can you relate?
But then this morning, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I ran across this post, from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, taken from one of her books:
"My path has been rough; but I have not had one trial which my heavenly Father could, in faithfulness, have spared me. He has dealt with me only in lovingkindness and tender mercy. I have not a doubt now, I shall see hereafter, that all His dealings with me have been for my good."
Susan Huntington, 1791-1823, suffered from lifelong physical afflictions. "In 1817 she lost both of her parents only months apart; in 1819 her husband died when she was eight months pregnant; and in the fall of 1821, two of her children died. In all these afflictions her suffering was intense, and she felt as if her feeble frame could not sustain her. But her merciful Father, who taught her that her strength was made perfect in weakness, upheld her, and she looked to Him as her only portion in life." (From: Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another; Reformation Heritage Books)
As I read that first line, I realized that I have been wrong all along about whether God could or could not spare his children pain and trials. He could not. I don’t mean that He doesn’t have the power, because He certainly does. But He cannot spare us the pain of trials, because He loves us. In His wisdom, He knows exactly what is needed to make us more like Him, and He designs each of our struggles perfectly for our unique personality and soul. I am certain that I would never have fallen to my knees (at least figuratively!) over anything other than a physical trial. He had to cause me to be physically weak, because my physical strength was what I was trusting in. He knew I would not give that up if He did not provide for it to be removed, and so He graciously did.
As I type this, there are three dear saints in my church who are battling cancer, and many who are struggling with chronic pain. Tomorrow evening, I will attend a memorial service for a dear brother who went home to be with the Lord at thirty years of age, leaving a young wife and three little children. We begged the Lord to heal him, because we know that He was able to do it. But He could not. He could not heal that young man, because He loved him and his family. Out of love for them, He has graciously given them this unique opportunity to trust and rely on Him, and to glorify Him in their response. I do not understand it, but I am content with the truth that, while He is able, sometimes, he cannot.
We are weak and frail, my sisters, but the good news is that our weakness, our frailty, and our dependence on God bring glory to Him. Isaiah 43:7 teaches us that we were created for the purpose of glorifying God. In His mercy, he arranges everything in our lives to allow us to fulfill that purpose. How could He take that opportunity from us? It would be cruel to create us for His glory, and then, by keeping our lives smoothe and easy, deny us the opportunity to fulfill that purpose!
Let’s begin today to look at our trials as opportunities to glorify God. I keep the following question handy at all times in the back of my mind, and when trials come, I pull it out and ask myself:
“I was created to glorify God. How am I doing right now?”
This helps me to reel in my perspective back to biblical truth, and it renews my determination to change my default response. I don’t always succeed, but I do have victory more than I used to, and that is what progressive sanctification is all about!