This post is a part of the Sovereignty of God Blog Series going on throughout the months of July and August. You can read about the series and see a schedule of the posts here. You can subscribe to all the posts here.
Today’s post is from Jake Bouma. Jake currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa, where he works as both the director of youth and family ministries and contemporary worship leader at St. Mark Lutheran Church. If for nothing else, Jake demands respect because he was one of the earliest adopters to this thing called blogging.
If you read my Twitter profile, you’ll notice that one of the descriptors is “Amateur theologian”. I’m not really sure what it takes to be a “professional” theologian, but I can tell you that I have very little seminary training; most of my theological aptitude comes from several years of reading – both analog (books, journals) and digital (blogs, webzines). Until I complete some graduate theological education, I’ll just stick with the label of autodidact.
Why the caveat? Because today I’m not going to attempt any grand theological statements about the sovereignty of God. I’ll try my best to avoid theological jargon, especially words beginning with “omni-“. You see, for me the issue of God’s sovereignty is less about theo-logy and more about anthropo-logy, that is, the posture I take as a disciple-in-response to God’s sovereignty is in some ways more important than any named attributes of our God.
But let’s get to the point here. I find it extremely discouraging that the oft-used phrase “everything happens for a reason” has been so watered down, wrung out, and muddied that it has little if any actual meaning anymore. It’s unfortunate, because that phrase is loaded with gooey theological goodness (even words beginning with “omni-“). I believe, along with Paul and countless Christians, that everything does happen for a reason, or as Paul says in Romans 8:28, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Sometimes I can see with vibrant clarity how God works to make all things work together for good in my life, but most of the time (let’s say… 95%) I find myself asking “why?” To get rather personal, when I was three and a half years into my undergraduate studies, I received a letter informing me that I was to pack my things and go home. I struggled with severe depression in school and my grades quickly swirled their way down the commode. Fortunately – unbelievably – I was able to appeal my way back in, and graduated only one year behind my classmates.
An experience like that wreaks havoc on one’s perception of God’s sovereignty. A thousand whys and a thousand silences make “everything happens for a reason” a trigger for anger rather than comfort. But the fact of the matter is this: graduating a year later has been an incredible blessing in my life. I interviewed and accepted an offer for my dream job right after graduation; who knows where I would be now had I graduated “on time”? That and countless other things, when viewed from where I stand now, years later, are slowly painting a more vivid picture of the truth in Romans 8:28.
Most importantly, my life experiences have taught me what it means to be a disciple-in-response to God’s sovereignty. For me, it means at times an almost unbearable amount of patience to recognize God’s sovereign hand in and around my life. It means that when I confront God with a thousand whys, I know there is hope, even in the silence. And it means that “everything happens for a reason” isn’t just a stale platitude.