Monday, September 24, 2007

Sovereign God

[I was a bit hesitant to share this, but I had to get it out of my head. It's completely off the cuff, and I may end up revising it. Feel free to give me your opinion...It's just what was on my heart as I heard this recent news...]

A friend of mine lost her husband this weekend. They were in a car accident. They're both early twenties, and have 2 babies - a one year old and a two month old. They'd been married about 3 years. Strong believers, driving home from church picnic/ baptism service at a water hole when he lost control of the car.

Is it too late to warn you, this could be a depressing post?

Once again, my faith is tested. No matter how hard I try, God will not be the God I want Him to be...He's going to be Who He is. Which means He's going to allow things to happen that I don't understand and don't agree with. I guess that's why I'm not God, and He is. But times like these make me wrestle with Him, and come out with a deeper, more mature faith.

The first time I realized God lets things happen like this was shortly after I was married. While Chuck and I were engaged, I met a couple (at the seminary I went to), who had been married just over a year, and were expecting their first child. The woman even made my wedding cakes, which were awesome, with a big baby belly. It was really cute. Chuck and I were married in December, and I didn't see them much over the next semester, and she had the baby at the beginning of summer. That summer I sent her a Thank You card with some photos of her beautiful cakes. That August as I started back to school, her husband pulled me aside, thanked me for the Thank You, and told me she'd passed away. Six weeks after their daughter was born she came down with a weird form of Strep that went into her blood, and within a couple of days...she was gone. I cried and cried out to God the whole way home. How could He allow this to happen? Didn't they deserve a good life? Besides, they were His servants!! And newly married, and with a baby who needed her momma!! If this could happen to them, it could happen to Chuck and I, too! (You can imagine my fear when Chuck gets heart problems the day after we found out we were pregnant the first time.) Finally I came to accept the fact that God is God. Even His foolishness is greater than our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25), so whom am I to decide what's best? He is sovereign and He is love. He didn't allow her to die in order to punish or hurt anyone, or even because He was unable to protect them. He has His reasons, which I still don't know, but I can still trust that He loves us.

Ecclesiastes 3:11-14
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Once again, I was tested when I watched another young couple lose their first child. They'd been married awhile, they were successful in conceiving the first time they tried, and the baby was born looking completely healthy...but tests had already shown he had a heart defect. He never came home from the hospital. For 5 long weeks they tried everything possible to save his precious life, but to no avail. I know God is there, that God loves them, but what was the point of allowing that to happen? What could possibly be worth going through such pain?

These experiences of loss are not just one time incidents...they last a lifetime in the lives of the families. And the grace part, the mercy part is this: God longs to comfort, and only He can truly heal. But even healing doesn't mean you won't think of your lost loved one for everyday of your life. But here's Scriptural proof that God longs to comfort those who are hurting:

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

But all this leads me to realize, life isn't easy. No wonder my grandparents were ready to pass away when they did. Even for all the joy that life contains, it can also contain pain that lasts for your whole lifetime. Which leads me to these verses...

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

When I would read the passage above, I always thought that was such a downer. How could the day of death be better than the day of birth?!! But the older I get, the more I get it.

Which leads me to my last reflection lately.

2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Not that this means we can earn our way to Heaven, but that Heaven is so beyond what we can imagine, all this suffering will pale in comparison. It's like telling a woman who's in the throes of pregnancy sickness that it'll all be worth it in the end. Once that baby comes, it won't matter how many times you threw up, or that you had no life for 9 months. But it's hard to imagine until you hold your own little one. And while some of us have harder pregnancies than others, we all get to enjoy the incredible joy that comes from having a child. And while some of us have harder lives than others, all of us who know Christ, will get to experience the joy of Heaven with Him. Aren't you glad that He offers this to everyone, and longs that none perish apart from Him?

Which leads me to my final point. There may be no security, even with God, from pain and loss. But there is an even more important security that He can bring. He will comfort us here, and He will bring us to Heaven when our time here is finally through. Maybe we'll finally see why He allowed those things to happen. And we'll be united with those who we lost that knew Him. Oh how I want to watch those reunions...the man and his daughter seeing his wife for the first time since the baby was 6 weeks old, the 5 week old baby with his eagerly waiting parents, and my friend and her two babies, with her husband. "God is faithful, Who called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 1:9).

Life & Death I Cor 15:51

Mammy's flowers (Psalms 103:15-17)

Jason & Kaleb (Psalms 103:13)


Angie said...

Comment from Melony:

Oh Angie... this post is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and the TRUTH of OUR GOD! Thank you, thank you!

Angie said...

Comment from Kelly:

I agree Angie. What a wonderful message. I hope someday to be at your level of understanding and expression. Thanks for sharing.

Angie said...

Comment from David:

You touch on the difficulties in the notion of a supreme being that is all powerful and the personification of love. I can't see how the doctrine of 'free will' helps the situation of a baby being born with a painful and incurable ailment or the child's mother not surving long after birth.

Angie said...

Comment from Angie:

I'm not sure what you mean, David, that I've mentioned the doctrine of free will helping the situation... All of these tragedies were situations where the people didn't have any choice in what happened, and their only "choice" was whether or not to accept God's comfort despite the fact that He allowed the tragedy to happen. I hope that's an answer you were seeking.

Angie said...

Comment from David:

I agree that these were tragedies and that the individuals had no choice. I have never heard of any satisfactory explanation of a benevolent supreme letting some of this stuff happen, let alone creating the cancers etc in the first place.
I prefer a post Darwinian explanation of, essentially, bad luck. It was bad luck that nice Mrs Smith died young and that Adolf Hitler did not.

Angie said...

Comment from Angie:

I'm afraid that you would never find a satisfactory explanation for why God allows bad things to happen. Honestly, I believe it's outside our realm of understanding. And it was definitely not my intention to try to explain it, for I still don't know. But the purpose of my post is this: to explain why I still believe. Even though God does things we don't understand/like, He can still be trusted. Even to believe in the post Darwin explanation is to have a faith of some kind. Does the fact that God does not deny allowing these things to happen, mean that we shouldn't trust/ have faith in Him? I don't think so, and here's why: the closest "explanation" we have is the book of Job in the Bible. God allowed one of His faithful followers to lose all 12 of his children, all of his wealth, and then be stricken with a very uncomfortable illness. There are many chapters where Job's friends try to find a reason for it. Finally Job cries out to God, and God's response is, basically, "You're not Me. You don't have the power or understanding that I have. You have to trust me anyway." (I'm totally interpreting here but please read it yourself...). And Job decides to do just that. And almost as an afterthought, all of Job's life is restored, even beyond what he had before. As I study the Bible I know that it doesn't answer all the questions, especially this one we're dealing with, but it shows me a God that I can't deny exists, and thankfully, cares for me. So, like Job, that's where I'll hang my hat until all the answers come. And the truth is, death is not the end...Adolf Hitler will be judged for eternity, which is far worse than just dying young...

Great thoughts! Thank you so much for sharing your opinion!

Kendra said...

Hi Angie, I saw a link to this post on another friend's blog and just had to say thank you! Your words are so encouraging to me and remind me that God is God and I am not. I won't be able to understand all of the things that He allows to happen, but I can trust that He loves me more than I can understand and will always be there to guide me. After reading your comment on her blog and then reading your post on your blog, I am encouraged to read the Bible more and pray more!!