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Filtered Through His Fingers of Love: Resting in God’s Sovereign Rule, Part 2

Gods-fingers-of-love

God holds our lives in the palm of His hand. Nothing is allowed to touch us unless it is filtered through His fingers of love. Only the circumstances that will benefit us and reveal His character are allowed to seep through His protective fingers.

In Part One of this series, we saw that God is the supreme ruler of the universe. He has ultimate control over every detail. No one outranks or overrules Him, not Satan or demonic powers—not even temporarily. No one has more control over the events of this world and our lives than God.

Not only does God control the universe, He rules with infinite wisdom and love. He has the power to determine which difficulties will enter your life, and out of His wisdom and love, He allows only the ones that will work for your good and His glory.

No trial reaches us without God’s appointment and specific permission (for scriptural evidence, go here.) He does not permit things pointlessly. There is a reason God allows the trials and afflictions that He does.

God sees the potential for our lives and allows the experiences necessary for us to reach it. One day, looking back from heaven, through the end-of-time lens of a Holy God, we will see all the good that came from our afflictions, and we will thank Him for every discomfort we endured.

One day, looking back from Heaven, through the
end-of-time lens of a Holy God, we will see all the good
that came from our afflictions, and we’ll
thank Him for every discomfort we endured.

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God Is Not Caught Off Guard

God wasn’t caught off guard the day a tick decided I would make an appetizing meal. God didn’t start scrambling, trying to figure out what He was going to do now that His great plan for my life was ruined by chronic illness. No, Lyme disease was part of God’s plan for my life—part of His best for my life. It was part of God’s plan A, not plan B. Without it I would never have come to love and live by the Word of God so deeply… and I sure wouldn’t be sharing God’s comfort for life’s trials with others if it weren’t for the derailment of my plans for my life.

In the initial years of illness, I mourned my losses and despised my illness. I was depressed. I cried. And I took my complaints to God… daily. I desperately wanted my life back! One night I lay crying on the couch, wallowing in total despair and anger.

“Can’t you see how miserable I am, God? I can’t take it anymore,” I sobbed. “This doesn’t make sense! I could have gone to graduate school on scholarship. I could have been Miss Texas. I could have accomplished so much in ministry. Instead I’m lying around the house worthless and miserable.”

“This is the best thing I could do with these years of your life,” God gently replied. “This is better than if you had won Miss Texas. Better than completing graduate school. Better than becoming a Christian recording artist. Better than the best of your dreams.”

His words weren’t audible, but they were unmistakable in my spirit. They are still as fresh in my memory today—over twenty-four later—than if He’d spoken them just this morning.

God wrote a book about me—and a book about you, too—before you and I were ever born. This book contains all the events of our lives. From the moment we’re born to the moment God calls us home, every detail is under His loving, wise, sovereign control.

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them“ (Psalm 139:16, AMPC). Click to tweet Tweet This

He Governs With a Hands-on Policy

The two best books I’ve ever read about suffering and God’s sovereignty are As Silver Refined by Kay Arthur and When God Weeps by Joni E. Tada and Steve Estes. Both books are deep, yet accessible, inspiring, and full of Biblical truth.

In When God Weeps, Steve Estes writes about the specificity of God’s plan for each of our lives:

“He doesn’t say, ‘Into each life a little rain must fall,’ then aim a hose in earth’s general direction and see who gets the wettest. He doesn’t reach for a key, wind up nature with its sunny days and hurricanes, then sit back and watch the show. He doesn’t let Satan prowl about totally unrestricted. He doesn’t believe in a hands-off policy of governing. He’s not our planet’s absent landlord. Rather, he screens the trials that come to each of us—allowing only those that accomplish his good plan, because he takes no joy in human agony.” [1]

Did you catch that? God does not believe in a hands-off governing policy. He screens our trials and with great specificity allows only the ones that will accomplish His good plan.

God does not believe in a hands-off governing policy.
He screens our trials and with great specificity
allows only the ones that will accomplish His good plan. 

Click to tweet TWEET THIS God's sovereign rule

The core of God’s plan is to rescue us from our sin. He steers what He hates to rid us of something He hates even more—sin. God cares more about our holiness than our happiness. He uses our difficulties to help us hate our sin, to grow us up spiritually, and to prepare us for eternity.

Every sorrow will one day prove to be the best possible thing that could have happened.God may not instigate our trials, but by the time they reach us, they are His will for our lives. They are part of God’s plan A for us, not plan B.

Job: The Correct Perspective

In the years that I was confined to bed and to a wheelchair, suffering immeasurably, the realization of God’s sovereignty had a huge effect upon my life. How so? It liberated me to trust God. To worship Him. To know Him. To bow the knee of my heart and submit to His will, giving thanks in everything. To see my situation as He saw it—from His eternal perspective. To experience peace, contentment, and joy.

This effect is not uncommon. To see this we need look no further than Job. How did he respond to the terrible news of the deaths of his of his children and servants and the loss of his wealth, his flocks?

Job “fell to the ground in worship and said … ‘The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’” (Job 1:20-21).

Job did not say, “The LORD gave and Satan has taken away, who is in control of the world today?”

If Job had not understood God’s sovereign rule, and instead blamed Satan for his suffering, this is precisely what He would have said. Or he could have considered the lightning and wind storms or the Sabeans and Chaldeans ultimately responsible for the devastation they caused. Job could have considered anything but God responsible.

Job responded as he did because of one thing—He knew that God reigned supremely above all, above Satanic forces, above nature and weather phenomena, above men and all created things, above every detail of this world. He knew the buck ultimately stopped with God.

It was Job’s submission to God’s sovereign rule that enabled him to do something we find inconceivable—to bow in worship while stating that God had taken everything away.

Because he rested in God’s sovereign rule, Job could bow in worship and praise God for who He was. After stating that the LORD had taken everything away from him, Job said: “May the name [the character] of the Lord be praised” (v. 21). He actually praised God in a time of loss, which he knew God was responsible for allowing.

What? Did Job really worship and praise God at such a time? You mean he didn’t shake his fist at heaven and shout obscenities? No, because Job realized the extent of God’s authority, he could rest in His rule.

It’s amazing how the knowledge of God’s sovereign rule caused Job to respond to his pain and loss!

Job is not an exception. God wants to do the same for you and me in our suffering. And He will … when we rest in His sovereign rule. But we cannot rest in something we do not know. That’s why it’s important that we understand what the Bible says about God’s sovereign rule.

Two Sides of the Theological Coin

When an unexpected trial careens into our lives, we tend to either respond in peace declaring, “God is in control; He has a reason.” Or we fume, “God, You are in control. You could have prevented this!”

There are two sides to the theological coin of God’s sovereignty… and I’ve lived on both of them. The coin is the singular fact that God is sovereign over all. The two sides of the coin are the two ways we tend to respond to God’s sovereign rule over life’s negative events. We either feel great peace and assurance… or immeasurable anger.

What determines which emotion we feel? The lens through which we view our trials.

If we’re looking at our lives through a temporal lens, we get mad at God. We grow bitter over the fact He allowed us to experience the pain, the loss, the disappointment.

But if we look at our lives through the lens of God’s end-of-time-perspective and gain heaven’s higher view, we realize God had a loving purpose for allowing the trial. And even if we don’t know what that is yet, we realize we will know one day, possibly here on earth, but definitely in heaven. We remind ourselves that God is faithful and trustworthy, that He loves us with unfailing love, that His infinite wisdom is much higher than our finite minds can conceive, and that He has our best interest in mind. So we yield to His higher, wiser, loving plan.

If we continue reading in the book of Job, we see that Job flipped to the other side of this coin. He moved from peace, trust, and worship to anger, despair, and hopelessness.

After Job’s exemplary response in chapter one, God gave Satan permission to touch Job’s body (Job 2:4-7). This painful affliction was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Job cursed the day he was born. Hopeless, he sunk into total despair:

“My spirit is broken … All my plans are smashed, all my hopes are snuffed out… If all I have to look forward to is a home in the graveyard … if my only hope for comfort is a well-built coffin … Do you call that hope?” (Job 17:1,11,13,15)

Job thought God was angry with him. He accused God of being unjust and uncaring. Job never accused Satan. He never drifted from the correct understanding that ultimately God was behind his afflictions. But this knowledge combined with unbearable affliction flipped Job to the wrong side of the theological coin. The side of anger, despair, distrust.

Job remained on this side of the coin until the end of the book when He saw God. God gave Job a glimpse of Himself, and Job was satisfied … before God restored his fortunes. After he saw God (chapters 38-41), Job said:

  • “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:1).
  • “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5).

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” In other words, You reign supremely. No one can overrule or overpower you. Your good plan for my life still stands, unaffected.

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” The word for “seen” means “to experience… to ascertain… to be fully aware … to cause to enjoy.” Job was in essence saying, “I thought I knew you, but I had no idea. I have experienced you now and nothing compares—not wealth, success, or health.”

Humanity’s Supreme Happiness

When Job saw God, he got a foretaste of heaven. He could see what you and I see—that God had let Job suffer not, as Peter Kreeft says, because “he lacked love, but because he did love, in order to bring Job to the point of encountering God face to face, which is humanity’s supreme happiness. Job’s suffering hollowed out a big space in him so that God and joy could fill it.” [2]

As a result, Job’s perspective of this temporal world and of his tragic circumstances changed. He saw that God is faithful and trustworthy, that His infinite wisdom is greater than our finite minds can conceive, that God loves us and always has our good in mind, and that God had given Job the greatest gift of all, not in spite of his suffering but because of it. What was that gift? God Himself.

More TweetablesTweetables

  • God holds our lives His hands. Nothing is allowed to touch us unless it is filtered through his fingers of love. Only the circumstances that will benefit us and reveal His character are allowed to seep through His protective fingers. Click to tweet Tweet
  • One day, looking back from Heaven, through the end-of-time lens of a Holy God, we will see all the good that came from our afflictions, and we’ll thank Him for every discomfort we endured. Click to tweet Tweet
  • “Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days of my life were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.“ ~ Psalm 139:16. Click to tweet Tweet
  • God does not believe in a hands-off governing policy. He screens our trials and with great specificity allows only the ones that will accomplish His good plan. Click to tweet Tweet
  • God steers what He hates to rid us of something He hates even more—sin. He uses our trials to help us hate our sin, to grow us up spiritually, and to prepare us for eternity. Click to tweet Tweet
  • God may not instigate our trials, but by the time they reach us, they are His will for our lives. They are part of God’s plan A for us, not plan B. Click to tweet Tweet
  • Job did not say, “The LORD gave and Satan has taken away, who is in control of the world today?” He understood God’s sovereign rule. This is why he could bow in worship as he said, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.” Click to tweet Tweet
  • Be encouraged. Your circumstances are not random, pointless events. They have eternal purpose. Click to tweet Tweet

Questions:

  • Have you thought of your current trials as being filtered through God’s fingers of love? Does it make you thankful to know that your present circumstances were allowed only because they will benefit you and reveal God’s character?
  • How does it encourage you to know that all the days of your life were written in God’s book before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them?
  • How does it help you to know that God has a hands-on policy of governing? Does it give you peace to know He doesn’t let Satan prowl about totally unrestricted?
  • Has it ever occurred to you that the knowledge of God’s sovereign rule over his suffering was why Job could bow in worship and praise God’s character, even on the heels of great pain and devastation?
  • Have you let the truth of God’s sovereign rule sink in — to such degree that you’ve been liberated to trust God in your trial? To worship Him? To know Him? To bow the knee of your heart and submit to His will, giving thanks in everything? 
  • What lens have you been looking through when you view your life and your trials? A temporal lens that leads to anger at God, or an eternal, end-of-time lens that leads to peace and trust? 

 

POSTED ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

UPCOMING ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

  • Part 5: Do God and Satan Alternate Shifts?
  • Part 6: What Circumstances Does God Control?
  • Part 7: Does God Control Sinful Acts?

___________________

1. Joni E. Tada and Steve Estes, When God Weeps (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 56

2. Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 69-70

 

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