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 Scott Burns. Scott just graduated from Multnomah Biblical Seminary in May with an M.Div. and got married on August 1st to his wife Monica. He grew up in Scotland and plans to return there in the next year with his wife. Scott has a strong grasp for theology and will make for a great pastor in the future.
Sovereignty of God – Theology of Suffering.
I have gone through more than my fair share of hard times. I know what it is like to be used… to be mocked… to be taken advantage of… to experience a broken heart… to be judged falsely and slandered… to be betrayed, let down, walked all over… to fail… to be confuse, rejected… even suicidal… the list goes on…
When I look back over my life I feel like I have had some of the most incredible good times, but on the flip side I have had a harder time than most. However, as you look at who I am today it’s unlikely that you’d to be able to name the things I’ve gone through.
When I was out for coffee with a friend he said something that got me thinking, something along the lines of: “Your theology of suffering really challenges me. How is it that you manage to put up with the things going on in your life and still have a smile on your face?”
I have thought long and hard about that. I didn’t realize I had a “theology of suffering”. I guess it developed over years of dealing with blow after blow, where God in His grace walked through it with me and taught me how to persevere, so that suffering produced perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.
It boils down to two principles clearly shown in Scripture that I know without a shadow of a doubt to be true:
- God is Sovereign
- God is Good
God is Sovereign. He rules over… everything! This is so hard to grasp in a day and age where we put such a large emphasis on individual rights and freedom. We live wanting to defy the natural laws around us rather than believe that someone lies behind it all.
Coincidence is the proof that God is Sovereign (and the enemy that tries to show otherwise). When we stop writing things off as coincidence we are led to a place where have to accept that there is a Sovereign God behind everything, orchestrated events.
I think about this often when I have a group of friends at my house. I often zone out and watch everyone. As I look over them I think about all the coincidences it took to get them to be in the same room. They had to be born in a particular place, to particular parents, have particular desires and personality traits… their lives had to intersect at a particular point to that each person in that room would know one another.
Let me be a bit more specific. I recently got married to the most amazing woman in the world. I’m Scottish. She’s American. What was the likelihood of us meeting and learning to love one another? What factors in my life make me who I am today? I was born (and grew up) in Scotland. God chose the parents who would birth me. He could have chosen American ones, but He chose Scottish ones (and let’s no go in to the amount of planning it took to bring my grandparents together, and their parents, and theirs…). My parents got divorced when I was three… and although I grew up with a divided house being a normal part of life, it shaped me profoundly. The influences I had throughout my life affected who I am… the teachers I preferred shaped my love for studying certain subjects… my ability with music made me appealing to certain people… the hurts I went through gave me a thicker skin and a boldness… I happened to meet friends who showed me what it was like to know the joy of living life for God rather than self. I randomly met a guy in Starbucks when I was 21 who had the right personality to earn my respect and become my mentor. He just so happened to have come from America and hang in that Starbucks at the time I was ditching class. He graduated from Multnomah, a school that had values that I had grown to respect, and so after a year or so of praying and planning I raised money and came to Portland. I had no idea that God was working in the life of Monica, crafting her through the hard knock school of life, leading her to Multnomah, and us together. I could go on and on… every shaping moment along the way… the fact we came in the same semester… the ways we complement each other… the things that our life’s experiences help us to understand about one another…
There are too many coincidences in just the bringing together of two people (even when the people don’t get on!!!) for me not to accept that God is Sovereign.
Praise the Lord that God is good.
That means the things He does, by of His nature, are good. Scripture reveals to us a God who loves all that He created. He is always out for our best interests, knowing that HE is what’s best for us. He understands the futility of a godless life. He sees the pain, the hurt, the heartache inflicted by sin. In His goodness, He longs that we would all know Him, and He is constantly reaching out to us, revealing Himself to us. In His goodness, He allows us to choose Him, rather than force us to follow Him. He blesses the good and bad alike. He rewards obedience and punishes disobedience. God is good.
These two things—God’s goodness and His sovereignty—are what makes it possible for me to endure suffering. If God is Sovereign, then He rules over the hard circumstances I am facing. If He were an Evil and Malicious God, then the circumstance was dictated so that I would hurt. But because He’s a Good and Gracious God… I know He walks with me through the circumstances I face, molding and shaping me through the hard times.
When I share my story people often ask “Do I wish I could go back and change it all”? Answer: No. Because then I wouldn’t be who I was today. I was shaped through the pain and hardship. If I take away some of the hardest seasons of my life, I would not be the same person. (And if I wasn’t the same person…. Monica wouldn’t have married me!)
God is sovereign and God is good I don’t have to like the circumstances I find myself in. But when you have faith that He is in control of everything… and that He is always looking out for your best interests, it’s impossible to be defeated during the hard times, because you know He is with you!