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24 Apr '13

Suffering, pain and God's sovereignty

Posted by T.J. Addington in God's sovereignty, pain, suffering
I am convinced that nothing tests our theology of God's sovereignty than when life blows up in our faces and we are left with the pain of the results. I have had my share so can speak from some experience:  dreams shattered in I my pastoral experience; being turned down for the job I presently hold, two life threatening illnesses and more. Each time I had to grapple with the questions: Is God good, is He truly sovereign? Can I trust Him with my future? and can He redeem the pain, suffering and situation that is beyond my control and use them for His purposes.

Let's face it. It is easy to talk about His sovereignty and goodness in the good times. It is far more difficult to do it in the hard times! Those of us who preach and lead and teach often have fine tuned theology for others but it is when life comes undone that we grapple with it ourselves.

Etched in my memory is January 4, 2009 when I was pulled off an aircraft in Thailand, sent to the hospital and found myself on a ventilator that evening with massive pneumonia, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, and septic shock - for the second time in two years. Awake that night on a ventilator with all the pain it engendered, a bad prognosis, my wife on the other side of the planet and my 21 year old son signing medical consents and knowing the odds I had to grapple with the questions above. 

It called the question: What did I really believe about God's sovereignty and Romans 8? Was God good even if I had not survived? Could I truly trust God's purposes for my life? The truth is I felt not a whit like Isaiah 40:28-31:

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

I felt a lot more like David in the Psalms where he despairs of his life and his soul is utterly cast down. And I knew that I had to choose like David did in Psalm 62 to trust God in spite of everything because He is sovereign and good and present and my salvation no matter what my situation. It was a choice I made late in the night as I wrestled with God and chose a path of faith. It was not easy and I had no idea of the outcome - even whether I would survive long enough to see Mary Ann when she arrived.

There are times when life surprises us, disappoints us and frankly betrays us. It is in those times that we make a choice to either believe what we have known to be true or not. Frankly, in retrospect, I am deeply thankful that I was faced with the choice on a number of occasions because it was in the crucible that faith and truth became truly real in my life and heart. It is the testing of our faith that makes it real. Every step of faith is a step toward God and toward His truth, promises, love and faithfulness. There is no other way to truly make it real!