At The Intersection of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will: Accidents and Miracles

I want to say up front that I am no theologian.  

I am, instead, a sincere follower of the Lord Jesus Christ who reads the Bible and tries hard to understand what it says and let it inform my worldview.  

I know I’ve written about this before but it comes up again and again in bereaved parent groups so I’m sharing MY perspective one more time.

Here’s the question: 

If God is sovereign (meaning all powerful) then why didn’t He save my child?  

Here’s my answer: 

God is sovereign.  There is no one more powerful in the universe.  He can and sometimes, does, interject directly in the affairs of men.  If He chose, we would be like automatons, simply doing precisely what He wanted us to do.

God has given man free will.  And that means that while there is a perfect plan and will of God for my life, for your life and for every life on this planet, I can choose not to follow it.  He will not force me into compliance.  I will often make foolish or sinful choices and may very well suffer the consequences.

The world is tainted by sin.  Our bodies are prone to sickness, disease, genetic abnormalities.  People make not only foolish choices but sinful ones-acting evilly against another person-causing harm and death.  Until the devil has been utterly cast out, we will continue to suffer in a world that is not at all as God originally intended it to be.

God has also set certain universal principles in place.  Gravity.  Physics.  Biology.  Each operates without His direct intervention according to the laws He created to give us a world that works in predictable fashion.  We have electricity in our homes because of these laws.  Internal combustion engines work a certain way, over and over and over.  When I get sick, my body temperature rises in an attempt to create a hostile environment for the invading bacteria or virus.  I depend on these laws every single day.  

In my son’s case, he made a foolish choice to drive too fast in a curve.  His motorcycle left the road (physics) and he could not maintain control nor stop it before he hit something.  His body could not sustain the blow (biology) and he died.

So many times people ascribe the word “miraculous” to someone who survives a nasty accident or is healed from disease.  It may be that God in His mercy DID miraculously deliver one person or another.  But it may be just as likely that the same laws of physics and biology (things we do not completely understand) which doomed my son, guaranteed their survival.  I cannot compare my life to theirs or my son’s accident to another.

COULD God have intervened?  Absolutely!  Did He?  No. 

But can I ask Him to step in and prevent these natural consequences when I would be very upset should He do it other times?

See, I want God to stop pain in MY life.  But (if I’m honest) I’d rather He allow it in the lives of others (those who molest children, for instance).  I want Him to reach down into this world He made and keep ME and MINE safe.

If He was reaching down all the time, this wouldn’t be the world I know, it would be a world where He was chess master and we were all pawns on the game board.  

The God I serve invites me to follow Him.  

He does not force me to make that choice.

It’s an uncomfortable mystery that I do not understand.  But I am satisfied that one day it won’t even matter.  

Because every question I have will melt away in the overwhelming joy of Heaven.  

trust god in the light

 

 

And If Not, He’s Still God.

It’s a hard, hard lesson to learn.

It’s even harder to carry it like a precious burden in the bosom of your heart.  

Because while it is oh, so true, it does not take away the pain when circumstances just don’t change no matter how hard you pray, how long you endure or how much you wish they would.  

God’s ways are not my ways.  His thoughts are not my thoughts.  He is not required to fit into whatever box I want to put Him in.

I came to child loss with what I thought was a pretty good understanding of Scripture, of theology and of Who God is.

What I realized was that no matter how much HEAD knowledge I had, it was only HEART knowledge that could sustain me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

He [Christ] said not, ‘Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be trevailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased,’ but He said, ‘Thou shalt not be overcome.

•Julian of Norwich•

Some people live lives that make sense.  They connect the dots-even of the hard and tragic things-into a picture that looks like something. They emerge from the ashes like a phoenix, wings outspread in victory and rising to new heights.

Not me.  

I can’t figure out what God is doing with my life. 

I don’t feel victorious. 

Mostly I feel tired. 

But I am absolutely convinced that God loves me and that He is doing SOMETHING.  What that is and how He is doing it are hidden from me.

I don’t understand.

I can’t trace His hand.

But I trust His heart.  

If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.

•Julian of Norwich•

 

gods stor doesnt end in ashes

 

Is God Punishing Me? Theology Matters.

Even though I knew better, one of my first thoughts after I got the news that Dominic had run ahead to heaven was, “Is God punishing me?”

Because when something THIS awful happens, it seems logical to assume it is in response to a massive cosmic imbalance.

As a matter of fact, even though it sounds counter-intuitive, it’s almost more comforting to believe there is a discernible reason behind my son’s death than to swallow the truth I may have to live the rest of my years not knowing.

I combed through my life-searching every nook and cranny-for what I did that deserved this kind of retribution.

And while I, like all of us, have a closet full of sin, I could not find a single transgression that rose to the ranks of demanding my son’s life in payment.

But then I realized that any of my sins-whether I counted them big or small-DID demand payment.

And God sent HIS Son to pay for them.

To us, the greatest demonstration of God’s love for us has been his sending his only Son into the world to give us life through him. We see real love, not in that fact that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to make personal atonement for our sins.

I John 4:10 PHILLIPS

They HAVE been paid for.  All of them.  Every single one.

There is no sin debt outstanding.

That’s an important concept to grasp.  It is absolutely critical that bereaved parents (and others who suffer horrible tragedies) get this theological point right. 

God is not out to extract payment for sin.

Now, He may well allow us to suffer the natural consequences of our sinful actions.  There may be things we must endure because of sinful choices we make.

But that is very different than suggesting God is visiting sickness or death or ill fortune on a heart because of unconfessed sin.

As a matter of fact, that was precisely the charge God Himself laid against Job’s friends when they simply would not let go of the idea that Job must have done something to justify his suffering.

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

Job 42:7-9 ESV

Even Job wanted God to explain Himself.  

While the Lord showed up, He never did give Job an answer. 

Instead HE asked the questions.  

We like to think we can figure God out, dig up the reasons why this happens or that doesn’t.  

Truth is, we’d do better to follow Job’s example once he encountered the Living God:

Oh, I am so small. How can I reply to You?
        I’ll cover my mouth with my hand, for I’ve already said too much.  (Job 40:4) 

Before I knew only what I had heard of You,
        but now I have seen You.
    Therefore I realize the truth:
        I disavow and mourn all I have said
        and repent in dust and ash.

Job 40:4 ; Job 42:5,6 VOICE

God’s thoughts are not my thoughts, His ways are not my ways.  

But He is perfect. 

He is SO perfect that He has provided the once and for all sacrifice that satisfies the price of sin by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

I may not understand (DO not understand!) why He has allowed my son’s death. But is was NOT punishment.  God does not lie.

I can rest satisfied in that truth.

bereavement-is-the-sharpest-challenge-to-our-trust-in-god-if-faith-can-overcome-this-there-is-no-quote-1

Have I Put God in a Box?

I honestly thought I had a fairly accurate and well-rounded theological grid before Dominic ran ahead to heaven.

I had studied Scripture diligently for over 25 years, read extensively, engaged in active and insightful conversation with thoughtful believers and swallowed some difficult truths.

But when faced with my child’s untimely and sudden death, I realized that I had also swallowed some untruths and half-truths.

I thought I had God figured out, that I knew how He worked in the world and that I was definitely on the inside track to gain His favor and blessing.

I was wrong.

I wrote this a couple years ago, but it is something I have to come back to over and over in this Valley of the Shadow of Death:

Every idea of [God] we form, He must in mercy shatter. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking ‘But I never knew before. I never dreamed…’ I suppose it was at such a moment that Thomas Aquinas said of all his own theology, ‘It reminds me of straw.’

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)

It’s possible that you haven’t thought of it this way, but if you are a believer in Christ and have yet to walk through faith-shattering trials, you may have placed God in a box.

I know I had.

Read the rest here:  God in a Box