I remember sitting on our blue couch one afternoon, thinking about life when I suddenly heard this question rise in my spirit, “Why do you fear my sovereignty?”
What? I was startled.
I’ve been alive long enough to know that when God asks you a question, He already knows the answer. His purpose in asking is to reveal a truth of which I was unaware in my own heart.
I fumbled with my thoughts, “What do you mean? I fear Your sovereignty? I do?”
I sat there perplexed and agitated.
Then I heard myself say, “Because I don’t trust You. You let Kelly* die. You’ve disappointed me.”
My thoughts swirled around me like a whirlpool. I thought about how my best friend died after months of contending for her healing. I thought about the betrayals, both in ministry and friendship, that always seemed to come out of nowhere to slap my soul. I thought about the never-ending weight of spiritual warfare. And the list went on.
My good, good Father had disappointed me and I was not convinced He was fully good….not anymore. I was convinced that He was maybe 98% good, but there was that 2% that felt like shadow. Or, maybe His version of good was twisted.
But there I was, sitting on our blue couch, feeling exposed….not to Him, but to myself. It was like being at the doctor when he takes his little handheld light and peers inside your throat or your ear, except in that moment, it wasn’t my ear or throat that was sick, it was my soul that had the infection. His question felt like a spotlight on my soul.
I am a prayer leader. I am now helping to lead my second house of prayer. I have taught on aspects of prayer many times over the years. As a prayer person, I realized that it was more comfortable for me to approach intercession from a “free will” perspective and ignore God’s sovereignty. When things don’t go the way I wanted, it was a lot easier to think, “Well, I just didn’t pray enough, fast enough, believe enough…” It was easier to lay the blame at my own feet (or that we live in a fallen world and bad things happen….) than grapple with the enigma that God doesn’t always seem to answer my prayers the way I want him to.
BUT THIS IS SO HARD.
Since that moment on the blue couch, I have realized how often I accuse God in my life. When something goes wrong, I feel myself pointing my proverbial boney finger at God, “Why did you let this happen? Where were you?” much like Martha did to Jesus in the book of John (chapter 11), “If You had been here, my brother would not have died….” She knew His power, had witnessed His authority, saw demons bow to His command. And yet, Jesus was late. In fact, He was intentionally late and now her brother was rotting in a tomb. In Martha’s eyes, Jesus had messed up. The Sovereign of the universe, and the One whom she loved, allowed her brother to die. She had done all she could - she and Mary had sent word to Jesus to come because Lazarus was very ill. And yet, Jesus waited to move.
I think part of her struggle is that she intimately knew Jesus. I don’t think an unknown, “far away” God’s actions would have caused her as much disappointment. She would have still felt the pain of losing her beloved brother, but not the pain of her friend’s inaction. She may have even felt betrayed.
But when we come into friendship with God, disappointment feels much more personal, for it’s our friend who let us down. How can we continue to trust our friend when we can’t trust His goodness?
Martha continued, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
i.e. “You can still fix this, Jesus.”
Think about the implications of her statement - a Sovereign God does not err, but a friend can.
Think about who often she and her siblings had spent time with Jesus, eating, talking, laughing, watching displays of his miraculous power. They had hosted the Savior. Her fresh bread had fed Him. She knew Jesus. She was a gifted hostess and knew how to cater to his every whim at her table. She knew his taste, his preferences. She knew what made Him laugh. She knew the color of his eyes and the timbre of His voice. She knew Him. Jesus loved her brother. In fact, Jesus called him “our friend Lazarus” when talking about Lazarus to his disciples.
Jesus responds to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.”
Why would Jesus respond with a doctrinal truth in this moment? John doesn’t report him apologizing and acknowledging Martha’s feelings. Why did Jesus respond with this statement?
I remember another time on my blue couch, when I was grieving the death of my friend. As tears streamed down my cheeks, I cried out to God in my anguish, like Martha. Her passing didn’t make sense. We had prayed and fasted. She left behind so many people who loved her, including a husband and her children. My heart was broken.
“THIS ISN’T RIGHT!” my soul screamed at God.
In that moment, I felt the Lord draw near to me. It’s like He came and sat next to me on the blue couch.
“Kelly’s* more alive than you are right now.”
It was like a ray of light pierced the haze enveloping my soul. It didn’t diminish my torrent of emotions and the waterfall of tears, but I unexpectedly felt hope. And peace. And love.
Jesus said in the gospels that His words are spirit and they are life. This is exactly what that moment felt like. I wasn’t just listening to Him declare that He was the resurrection and the life…. something deep inside of me resonated with this truth. At my core, I felt, I knew she was alive in Him.
There’s so much more that could be spoken about Maratha, Mary, Lazarus, and Jesus. Suffice it to say, Jesus performed the miracle of miracles and raised his friend from the dead. Before He did, He wept with them. He was so moved by Mary’s tears, and the grief of the other mourners, the passage described him as being “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” and he paused and wept.
The One who was about to raise His friend from the dead, still wept. Our God is moved by our tears. Our God is moved by our grief. The Logos who helped create the heavens and the earth (John 1:1) chooses to weep with us.
Our God sees the end from the beginning. He is both Alpha and Omega. He is an eternal God who views our linear timeline from outside of time. Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross 2,000 years ago and yet He is described as the Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). He was, and is, and is to come.
I like to think about it this way: Jesus is the master weaver and needleworker who is looking at the incredible, intricate design of the colorful tapestry of our lives. We “see through a glass darkly” and can only see the knots and frayed strings from the fabric’s underbelly. We see the colors, but can’t fully discern the scope and intricacies of the design because of our dim, finite perspective. It’s not until the veil will someday be removed and we will see Him face to face (1 Cor. 13) that we will see His glorious craftsmanship.
This is how I have come to understand God’s sovereignty. I cannot understand the WHY, but I daily choose to rest in the eternal truth that “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). What happens to me and my loved ones, whether due to sin, the work of Satan, being part of a fallen world, or perhaps because of God’s seeming inaction….I choose to rest in the knowledge that God is good. My situation may not feel good and may truly not be good, but my God IS good and He will turn it all for my good. If not in my lifetime, then “on the other side."
He is a generational God and as we see from His promises to Abraham, there are some promises that are meant to be fulfilled in future generations. Although this is hard to stomach when you’re looking for fulfillment now, it’s amazing to know that the One who is the Word is good to His word and we will see the fulfillment of each and every promise eventually, whether in this generation or in a future one….or perhaps even in the ages to come (Eph. 2:7).
Disappointment with God, although far from uncommon, can be a slippery slope. If we’re not careful to bring God into our process, unabated disappointment can grow into resentment, which leads to disillusionment, which in turn can mutate into bitterness. And bitterness is a diabolical root that will strangle our faith.
In my own journey, I’ve discovered a remedy - gratitude. Even when I haven’t wanted to lift my voice in song, like King David, I told my soul I needed to praise God anyway. Wherever you are today as you read this, if you feel the fog of disillusionment or the decay of bitterness encroaching upon the garden of your soul, turn your eyes to the One who is good.
>>>Speak out loud one thing for which you are grateful.<<<
This doesn’t mean we’re ignoring the injustice of our situation, or diminishing the loss of someone precious beyond words, but it does mean we are purposely turning our eyes to the One who can turn it all for our good. Gratitude is a powerful way to bring our faithful Father into our process.
The One who makes all things new.
The One who is the resurrection and the life.
The One who weeps when we weep.
The One who keeps His covenant to a thousand generations.
The One whose promises are yes and amen.
The One who is Sovereign.
The One who is good.