When Suffering and Sovereignty Collide

After the death of a close family friend this weekend, I’ve been struggling with God’s sovereignty. Doubt has crept in. Anger, fear, and pain have come.

“Why did you allow this to happen?” I asked. “Why him? I questioned. “Why?” I cried out.

And I heard no answer.

Perhaps God didn’t respond. Perhaps my hardened heart was too proud to hear him reply. Perhaps he never heard me in the first place. As I roamed around the lake outside of my dorm, a simple and small thought entered my mind. I know that God is perfect, incapable of any wrong – but sometimes I wish he wasn’t so that I could have someone to blame these tragedies on. What a relief it would be to finally have a scapegoat for these horrible events; the shocking accident, the devastating hurricane, the death that has simply come too soon. What a great weight it would take off my shoulders to finally have someone to point my finger at! After all, if he won’t answer me now, maybe he isn’t listening. And if he isn’t listening, how can he truly be good? The whole point of a loving god is that he is here for us, and if he can’t even do that, how can we put our trust in him?

As that destructive little thought blossomed and grew in my head, though, the piercing light of God’s truth came down at a seemingly perfect time.

“Trust me,” it said. “You don’t need to understand why. That’s my job.”

Isn’t that the whole point of our faith? If God were within our realm of understanding, he wouldn’t be God. If we, as imperfect sinners, were able to grasp the edges of God’s plan, would he truly be greater than us? God couldn’t really be God if he could fit inside our heads, but that’s something that I will always struggle with. When hell and high water come, and they will, we’re stuck with this paradox of God’s accessibility versus God’s perfection, a conflict that we just won’t understand here on earth.

It would be great to blame these awful circumstances on God. I’ll even go so far as to say that it would bring relief there in the moment. But months, weeks, even just days down the road, we’d remember the deep longing that we have for a perfect and sovereign Creator, a God who knows our deepest needs even better than we do. I may not ever understand why my friend died, just like you may never understand a tragedy in your own life. And I may even struggle with that reality for the rest of my life. But God doesn’t ask us to understand; he commands us to trust and obey. And in doing that, we find peace that would otherwise evade us – a peace that surpasses all understanding.

“Trust me,” he said. “You don’t need to understand why. That’s my job.”

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