One of the most difficult things in life to do is cope with evil. The pain of suffering inevitably drives us to the “why” questions. We long to know the reason (s) for why we experience such heartache. This is especially true when one encounters tremendous pain and suffering. Often this leads many to speculate that God’s hands are tied and that the best He can do in those situations is try and clean the mess up a little bit for us. This is essentially the argument presented in Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book, “Why do bad things happen to good people.” Many either explicitly or implicitly subscribe to this idea of a not so completely sovereign God.
The only problem with such an idea is the Bible! Repeatedly the Bible makes clear God’s absolute control in all circumstances and events of our lives, even the painful ones. In Acts 2:23 Peter declares this truth for our instruction. Speaking of the most horrendous atrocity that has ever taken place in human history (the murder of the Son of God) Peter says, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Notice what Peter affirms here. He affirms that this atrocious act was according to…God’s plan! He also, however, affirms that the deed is to be blamed on the lawless men who killed Jesus (see also ch.4:27-28). There is mystery here and our hearts should constantly feel the weight of that mystery. And while we may not be able to fully work it out in our own minds this side of eternity let us affix firmly in our minds the double truth of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.
Those who killed Jesus were held completely responsible, while at the same time God ordained it to come about. These two truths are compatible and meditation of this double edged truth is the only thing that will serve as balm to our hearts as we seek to navigate the waters of suffering that are sure to come to us in 2011. If we relax the truth of human responsibility than God’s goodness could be easily doubted. If we relax the truth of God’s sovereignty than His control could be easily doubted. Both are vital in sustaining our hearts in the face of suffering. When the “bell tolls for you” this year, Think on this: God is good, God is wise, and God is in control. There is no other healthy way to respond!