“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.”
(Psalm 135:6, NASB95)
Everything that Happens to You is Redeemed by the Sovereignty of God
One of my very favorite theologians, Charles Ryrie, wrote “The word sovereign means chief, highest, or supreme. When we say that God is sovereign we are saying that He is the number one Ruler in the universe…The concept of sovereignty involves the entire plan of God in all of its intricate details of design and outworking. Although He often allows things to take their natural course according to laws which He designed, it is the sovereign God who is working all things according to His wise plan.1”
Everyone implicitly or instinctively recognizes there is a god who is in control of all things. As I write this Hurricane Dorian was swept through the Bahamas and is heading toward Florida. When asked to explain why this devastating Hurricane has wreaked such damage may will simply say “It was an act of god.”
When I was a boy I often heard the dreaded words “Wait until your father gets home!”. This was very bad news as it was the promise of a coming spanking. In the same way God’s sovereignty is bad news for some. Sovereignty means that God, specifically the God of the Bible, is able and will vent His wrath against all things evil.
For others, God’s sovereignty is great news. It means that nothing is out of God’s control. When things are going great we can easily affirm that every good and perfect gift is from God (James 1:17). But can we also affirm that God is in control when suffering blows into our lives like Hurricane Dorian (Philip. 1:29, 1 Pet. 3:17)? The sovereignty of God means that we can. Every disappointment, personal disaster, physical, emotional, psychological hurt, every unkind word, every unfounded accusation and rumor is purposeful in our lives. God’s sovereignty in suffering means that everything that befalls us serves to make us more like Jesus (Rom. 8:28-29).
How does this work out in practical terms? Let me give just one example. God allows us to suffer so we can comfort others in their suffering (2 Cor 1:4). Mutual suffering welds us into a fellowship of suffering. It is a fellowship that includes Jesus. He suffered unjustly at the hands of government and religious leaders who conspired to put Him to death. And this was all according to God’s plan (Acts 2:23). When someone experiences a catastrophic or even minor setback we can empathize with them because, after all, we too have suffered. We can also turn with them to Jesus who is able to sympathize with our suffering.
On the other hand, when someone overflows with joy we are also ready to share their joy because we know what joy is. And we can share this joy with Jesus who knows joy (Heb. 12:2).
So whether you are suffering or joyful today take comfort in the sovereignty of God. He is with you and is using your suffering and joy to draw you closer to fellow Christians, closer to Christ Himself, and closer to becoming like Him.
1 Charles Caldwell Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972).