In theory the Sovereignty of God has never been difficult for me to understand. But practically speaking, this is the question where I always get stuck. How can God love all, when He allows pain? How can God be faithful, when so many died in the Holocaust?
How can God say No, and still love me?
The story that I think answers this best is that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. If we look in Mark 14:32-39, we can see just how intensely Jesus was dreading what He knew was coming.
“And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; and saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.”
Look closest at verse 36; God the Father told the One He loved most ‘No’. And what was Christ’s response? “Do what You will.” He submitted Himself to the Sovereignty of His Father, and endured.
In Luke 4:23-27, the point is that those healed were not of Israel, but I believe the point can be made that God chooses who is to be healed, and who isn’t. His choice. His will. Does this mean He didn’t love them? Does this mean that those struggling with chronic illness are condemned to misery by a sadistic power? No. We cannot understand how it could be loving, but we do know that God is Love Incarnate.
He cannot act apart from love.
So it comes to our choice: will we accept that His ‘no’ is loving? or refuse? The question is, will you argue with the character of God? —Not just love, but goodness, faithfulness, “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”. Hebrews 11:6.
In Luke 5:12, 13, Jesus heals a leper, but the point is not that the leper was healed, so much as the leper recognized it was Christ’s choice. He said, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”
I was going to end this post here, but God said ‘No’. 🙂
I had a personal experience happen where God told me ‘no’, and I struggled with being told that, even after I had most of this post written. The thing I asked Him for was not only something insignificant to anyone else, but it would have been a definite ministry victory for me. I understand death, even illness, but this would have been something good. It just didn’t work logically for me. I remembered this post, I reminded myself of God’s sovereignty…but I was still agitated. I felt horrible telling God that I needed something more to reconcile my soul to this decision. That was in the early morning. I wrestled all morning with my frustration but knew that He would give me what I needed. He always does. He gave me my answer at noon.
Scrolling through random verses on my phone, He placed before me a verse I had seen thousands of times. A verse I could probably tell you backwards. But there in that moment, it spoke to me as it never had before.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
His answer? It’s not about your logic. Trust Me.
There’s going to be times when He says ‘No’ even to good things, and it won’t make sense to us. “Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see.” (Bow the Knee, Chris Machen)
Our God is good, our God is Love.
To read more about what God has taught me about Love in 2017, click here.