08 March 2010

Hoping it Sinks In: Dealing with Grief and God's Sovereignty

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die...I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him...There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous...then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out...But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 14; 8:14, 17; 9:1)

As I continue reading through the previously mentioned book by R.C. Sproul, Surprised by Suffering focus was given on the book of Ecclesiastes which prompted me to read through a bit more of it than discussed in the book. In chapter four, Sproul speaks of the sovereignty of God, with some applicable words of wisdom:

In my experience, I have never met a professing Christian who looked me in the eye and said that he did not believe in the sovereignty of God. We have a intuitive understanding that if God is God, He must be sovereign. It is impossible for God not to be sovereign, and any conception of a god that is less than sovereign is an idol and no god at all. So it is easy for all believers to say "I believe in the sovereignty of God," and we affirm it on the surface.
However, the sovereignty of God is one of the most difficult doctrines to get into one's bloodstream and into the fiber of daily living, so that we really live life believing that God is in fact sovereign and maintain our trust in Him even when it seems that life is spinning out of control.

A great part of the difficulty we face in terms of really accepting this doctrine stems from the presence of suffering in our lives. We say that we believe that God is sovereign, but when we wrestle with events in our lives that are troublesome, bad things that happen to us, tragedies that befall us, we begin to question either the sovereignty of God or the goodness of God. (Sproul, pg 35-36)
Earlier in the chapters prior, he discussed Job, which of course has to come into play with any discussion of God, suffering, etc. I have made mention of it early in my grief studies as a necessary read in order to remind myself that God is in control, God does not let things go "too far" and that we cannot always know or understand the plans of God. If we believe God is sovereign, we must know that he has a plan. If we can fully grasp that God does indeed have a plan, and is not just "winging it" then we must have faith to rely on Him.

However, knowing that...understanding that....believing that....and actually living it is a completely different story., as Sproul says here. I never once during these past nine months ever stopped believing it, but must say I struggle with grasping it in my spirit...with holding on to it and living it. Well, maybe I can't be too quick to say that, since who knows what it would be like if I didn't have some kind of grasp on it. I would think for those who do not have this knowledge, who do not hold to this doctrine, would have a much harder time with death and grief. I can imagine many a suicide attempt can be attributed to the hopelessness of not knowing the God who is sovereign and has a plan. I know this, but not knowing the plan, and not seeing the big picture or good it may bring, the struggle with grief and confusion is present.

The fact that God has a plan is indicative that He has a purpose. The fact that He is sovereign is indicative that He is fulfilling that purpose even when He allows suffering to come upon us. As in the case of Job, He may not reveal what His purpose is, but we have good reason to trust in Him. (Sproul, Pg. 36)
A good point is reminded to us all, in Ecclesiastes 7:14:
In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
How often to we find ourselves, when prayers are answered, giving God all the glory and worship and praise. But when the day comes and a prayer is not answered in a way satisfactory to us, that we can even begin to doubt there is a God. We have to realize that God has made both the day of joy and the day of adversity, and we will rarely ever fully understand how they work into the whole plan.
The bottom-line assumption for anyone who believes in the God of providence is that ultimately there are no tragedies. God has promised that all things that happen - all, pain, all suffering, all tragedies - are but for a moment, and that He works in and through these events for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). (Sproul, pg. 44)
Now, I just pray that it all sinks in and becomes a reality in life, not just in my thought.