|Katie Lloyd Photography|
I had two choices. Either my son’s death was a random work of the universe spun by spinster, crone faced fates or my son’s death was a sovereign work of God. Initially neither choice held comfort for me. Both seemed cruel in the consequences of mourning and grief.
But only one end was hopeless. If I allowed the view that my son was born to suffer randomly, attached to no purpose or reason, then the logic followed that the living of his days was meaninglessness. My life spent pursuing a good life for him was meaningless. This would be the cruelest blow of all: we were subject to a fate written by an author of despair.
I was searching, desperately, for meaning in both my life and my son’s life. I needed an Author of Hope. I found that Author, the Author, in learning about the sovereignty of God. Growing to rightly understand the relationship between myself, the created, and the Lord Almighty, the Creator, has most affected how I view myself, the world and what happens in my piece of the world, in all life events.
This is my doctrine in the kitchen.
My view of God while growing up, was more like the Great Grandfather in the sky. He set the rules for the game and mostly I followed them. He showed He was pleased with my obedience by giving me Werther’s Originals. Any misdemeanors on my part were mostly set aside with a wink, a stern nod and a grin.
I liked this view of God because I was good at following rules. Or at least, I was good at choosing which rules to follow and which ones to avoid being caught at not following.
This view of God came crashing down during the life, illness and subsequent death of my firstborn child. All rules were called off it seemed as the level of my obedience (measured in my head) or not didn’t seem to matter. The events of James’ life marched upon their own path. The firm grip of control that I thought I exercised over outcomes and results was demolished under reality’s reign.
Not only furious but deeply hurt, I cried out to God, that stern but grinning Grandfather, to show me the new game rules so I could comply and get my way back on track. The whispered idea that He was sovereign over all of life made me furious. That was not the bargain I thought salvation made. Shouldn’t the good guys win all the time?
After James died in 1996, I told God that I was pretty much done with Him. The next three years were ones of great bitterness and separation from God. The consequences were felt in my marriage, parenting and every significant relationship. Without an anchor or purpose, I flung myself from one pursuit to the next, seeking self improvement of a kind that I could control. I watched talk shows that fed me thoughts of how I could control my fate if this book was read or that journal was written or this discipline was practiced.
While I attended church and even participated in a ladies’ Bible study, I was spiritually dry and internally indifferent. By 1999 I had come to an end of myself. An end spent after pursuing many practices that yielded nothing satisfying so I resentfully decided to study Romans with Bible Study Fellowship. I was familiar with the program through my mother-in-law who had been praying unceasingly for years that I would go to this study. The external motivation was to meet some women my age, possibly pick up a new discipline, and they had a children’s program for my two year old son. But my heart still whispered rebellion. I wanted to show God just what I thought of Him and His ways.
The first couple of chapters in Romans only received my agreement. Yes, men were wicked, I could think of many examples. Yes, men deserved God’s judgment. Again, many examples of all those other people came to mind. But in chapter three, I was shocked at what Romans said: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God,” verses10-11. How can this be? I thought. As far as I was concerned, I considered myself to have been seeking God for years. Hadn’t I obeyed Him for years? Well mostly obeyed Him but certainly obeyed Him more often than other people. How many nights had I spent in prayer before Him asking for the life of my son? Wasn’t my prayer of the highest order? For the life of a child?
The Word of God penetrated my heart and thoughts with the illuminating truth-answer that I had been seeking God to get what I wanted, not to give Him what He was worthy to receive. The Word pierced my understanding of righteousness and showed that all I called my good works were nothing but filthy rags. The Word was merciful in revealing who I really was, an unrighteous woman, miserable and without peace.
At first I did not know what to do with this because if these words were true, then my whole paradigm for understanding God was upside down and entirely backwards. I wanted God to exist to serve me. This word seemed to indicate that I was made to serve Him, to receive from Him that which I could not earn for myself. This would mean that He was absolutely greater than I. “Our God is in the heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.” Psalm 115:3
Learning about true righteousness led me to study God in His Word. His Word showed His purity, His holiness, His righteousness, His mercy, His grace and above all things, His utter sovereignty to exercise these attributes in the lives of His people in His will and timing. He was not before or after, He always is. He was not created; He creates. He is not bound by time; He rules time. He does not wonder for the future, He ordains the future. He does not lack for wisdom; He is pure wisdom. He is sovereign; we are not.
A key passage to my new understanding of God came from 2 Chronicles 29:10-11, “Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”
The sovereignty of God is great cause for thanksgiving in my life. What seemed like a cruel randomness of James’ suffering life and death is now anchored to the glorious intentionality that the Lord of all things exercises. He leaves nothing to chance but works in every circumstance. He is a God of hope who moves history and its events on a path that displays His glory and draws His people to Himself. For His glory and for my good bring the light of comfort that God knows what He is doing in my life and in the lives of those whom I love.
Learning the doctrine of God’s sovereignty has brought greater security and peace to my life, my marriage, my parenting and all of my relationships. His sovereignty in all events does not absolve me of personal obedience. Rather it informs my obedience because I can be confident that He is working out His perfect will in my life through every event. The Author of Hope is a Sovereign God.