When I have found myself in spiritual and emotional valleys, one thing has always played a key role in helping me come victoriously out of them: meditating on the nature and characteristics of God. This meditation, which has consistently led me into deeper prayer and worship, has been a tremendous blessing to my life. In the last article, we considered God’s goodness. It thrills my soul to know that because God has already given me the best gift possible, his own Son, he will not hesitate to give me any other good thing (Rom. 8:32). Let’s consider another of God’s traits.
God is sovereign. He controls his creation. He is in charge. “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psa. 135:6). “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns” (Rev. 19:6). “The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind” (Dan. 4:25). God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom. 9:15; Exo. 33:19). Those are the words of a supreme, autonomous, sovereign King.
Does this mean that we are just preprogrammed robots? That we don’t have free will? No, it doesn’t. For example, the people of Jerusalem had the choice to embrace Jesus, but they “were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37). Jesus affirmed free will when he said, “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (John 7:17). Writing about his unsuccessful attempts to live without breaking God’s law, Paul said, “The willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Rom. 7:18).
It is not within the scope of this treatise to harmonize the doctrines of divine sovereignty and human free will. On that question I choose to take Paul’s two-fold approach: (1) Rest in the fact that “there is no injustice with God” (Rom. 9:14), and (2) worship him for his ability to harmonize both of those realities wisely, perfectly, and in ways that are beyond our comprehension (Rom. 11:33-36).
So what does the sovereignty of God mean on a practical level? How does it help me deal with spiritual and emotional hardship? Divine sovereignty means that nothing will come into my life that God has not either purposely decreed or passively allowed – even, as difficult as it is to accept, those things that are devastatingly painful and confusing. And God’s goodness reminds me that he will employ (somehow, someway) those painful and inexplicable adversities to his glory and my benefit. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
It is the combination of God’s goodness and sovereignty that gives me a firm foundation upon which to rest my faith. I may not be able to understand or explain what is happening or why, but I can find peace in the recognition that God is good (Psa. 34:8) and he always does what is right (Gen. 18:25).