Insular Suffering & God's Sovereignty ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, September 14, 2007

Insular Suffering & God's Sovereignty

I think that the way pain and loss drive us into ourselves like bats into a cave is one of Satan's best tricks. Hurting people are often the most alone--and not necessarily because they were lonely before they got hurt. Easily we turn away from other people and away from God at the very moment when we should be allowing our friends and Father help dissipate the sharp edges of our pain.

This pattern is one that Christ reversed in an amazing way on the cross, extending himself to his Father, to people around him, at the very time of his most hellish agony. "This very day you will be with me in paradise," he said to the dying man beside him. "Mother, look on your son [John]," he said to Mary, arranging for her care after his death. "Father, forgive them," he pleaded for his executioners, concerned about their impending judgment. And at last: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

On the cross, far from shrinking into himself, Jesus lifted his soul and looked the world in the eyes. He looked the world in the eyes because he looked his Father in the eyes. And he looked his Father in the eyes because his Father loved Jesus, was full of compassion and understanding, and was completely sovereign. Full of his Father's spirit and submitted to his Father's plan, Jesus never once experienced an instant when the events of his life swung "out of control." Everything was ordained. Everything was foreseen. Agony was agony, but incredibly, it was as it should be.

The way we should respond to suffering is modeled by Jesus and expressed in verses like 1 Peter 4:19. "Those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." Our Creator is the one who holds the wheel of the world and knows the real outcome of every vague contingency. Haphazard is not in his working vocabulary. Maybe is a word he laughs at.

Therefore, when suffering comes, our response to God's jaw-dropping sovereignty should not be distance and stoicism, the kind that makes us strangers in our own lives and causes us to wear masks around our friends. God's power to know and control, as shown in the beautiful Father-Son dynamic of the gospels, should be the very thing that pushes us toward trust and prayerful desperation--especially when our heart is broken.

If we want to live biblically, we are forced to adapt the Bible's categories and let the Bible train our reactions. Sovereignty is a puzzling, even agonizing, reality this side of eternity's lens--see Job. But we aren't to respond with polemics and philosophical theories and vitriol--see Job. Instead, sovereignty becomes a constellation, dimly seen through layers of rain and mist, that nevertheless guides us through desperate shadowlands to clear skies worship and humility. Again, see Job.

A moment comes when we get a sketchy idea of God's power and the way it is interwoven with mercy, and his invincible kingdom expands around us. God, who could have prevented our agony, is using it instead to redeem all of creation and to transform us into immortals who will live on the new earth in unmapped glory. God is slow and certain and he will have his way.

He is turning the devil's own tricks into miracles and when the new heaven and new earth rises from the ashes of this one, we will not think that the trade was a poor one.

Like what you read? Don't forget to bookmark this post or subscribe to the feed.


Pea said...

How amazing that the Father loves us so much that He can cause someone to write a blog entry that will speak to a stranger miles away. This blessed me! And in all things, we win.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife