When bad things happen, the first question we want to ask is, “Why?” The second one is often something like, “If God is really there, how could He let this happen?” It’s easy to talk about faith when everything seems to be going well. But what about when having faith means you actually have to trust God - and nothing, or no one, else?
This is a dilemma I’ve confronted more times than I care to recall. Sometimes it’s really big events with massive impact – like a global pandemic, along with all the chaos it creates. It might be a hurricane or tornado that rips through a city or a region, causing devastation and extensive damage to anything in its path. It might be social unrest that becomes violent and destructive, turning once-picturesque cities into virtual war zones or making them look like Third World countries.
Or it might be more personal: The loss of a beloved family member or friend. A terrifying diagnosis. The unexpected loss of a job, without any suitable prospects for new employment. A financial crisis that appears out of nowhere, with no reserves for responding to it. Difficult decisions that leave us perplexed.
Regardless of the circumstances, do we possess faith deep enough to trust the Lord, no matter what?
In biblical theology there’s a term called the “sovereignty of God.” To make sure we’re thinking about this along the same lines, I looked up a couple of definitions. One said, “God’s absolute right to do all things according to His good purpose.” Another defined this as, “the unlimited power of God, who has sovereign control over the affairs of nature and history…. The Bible declares that God is working out His sovereign plan of redemption for the world and that the conclusion is certain.”
From experience, I’ve come up with a definition of my own that sometimes I like, and sometimes I don’t: “God is in control – and I’m not.”
This comes freshly to mind whenever I stop to think, even worry, about the crazed state society is in today. Our nation is embroiled in the political turmoil of all political turmoils. Then there’s that thing we’d never heard of when the new year dawned about eight months ago – COVID-19 – that threatens to reshape forever what we regard as “normal.”
Like many folks, I’ve struggled to make sense of it all. Part of me wants to say, “Uh, Lord, in case You haven’t noticed, things are in quite a mess here. Are You paying attention? Would You mind doing something about it?”
That’s when I try to remind myself of God’s sovereignty, that He hasn’t been caught off guard. He’s not wringing His hands in the celestial realms, fretting, “My, My. What ever are we going to do now?” No, since the Lord is sovereign over all things, nothing is beyond His purview. No matter what it is, His response is, “I’ve got this.”
How do we know this? Through the eyes of faith, and believing what God reveals to us in the Scriptures, we can trust that even when things seem most dark, He still rules. Here are just some of the assurances found the eminently practical Old Testament book of Proverbs:
“The Lord works out everything for his own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Proverbs 16:4).
“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (Proverbs 21:30).
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).
“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
“A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24).
What about our concerns regarding whether the right people will get elected in November? Can we trust God with that as well? We have this assertion: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1).
I’ve played a few games of chess over the years, but never got the hang of it. For experts, however, it’s a contest of consummate strategy. With experience gained through thousands of competitions, as well as a thorough understanding of the game, chessmasters don’t anxiously wait to see what move the opponent chooses to employ. The chessmaster, having anticipated multiple moves and countermoves in advance, is ready for whatever the opposing player opts to do.
This might be a weak metaphor, but I perceive God as the ultimate Chessmaster, armed with a firm, unfailing plan that has factored in everything and anything that can be thrown at Him – by human beings, the natural realm, or the spiritual.
Trust is birthed and established through time and experience, transforming faith from a comforting notion to an unshakable, unwavering possession. This is why, again and again, I’ve turned to my favorite passage in Proverbs for confidence in very uncertain times:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
If we believe and trust that God is sovereign, and that He’s after our best interests – perhaps even more than we are – this releases us from lots of unnecessary stress and anxiety.