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THEOLOGY > God > Providence > Struggling with Sovereignty 


Struggling with Sovereignty reveals our finitude and depravity. No believer is immune from this struggle of the soul, a struggle that at its core would have God give account of Himself. It is the question of Eden, a question that questions the action of God. It is the demand of Job that God would appear and explain His seemingly irrational deeds. It is the inquiry of the psalmist who is concerned about the inequity between the wicked man who prospers and the righteous man who suffers.

The deeper the reflection on the workings of Sovereignty the greater the realization is that the goal of the reflection is illusive. At times the believer may even speculate about his faith in Sovereignty and contemplate if he even believes anything. Out of weakness and desperation the redeemed thinker speaks with the words of the father during the days of Jesus: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24).

For some the struggle may be more severe than for others, but the struggle invades the intellectual and practical perspectives of men as they deal with life and reflect on its meaning and destiny. The struggle may be mentally debilitating and protracted, seemingly without termination. Numerous factors contribute to and condition the believer’s struggle with Sovereignty.

One, the humanistic culture rejects supernatural causes. The believer is constantly inundated with the preachments of pseudo-scholarship that affirm a closed system with no place for, nor need of, an outside Cause or, more pointedly, a Person removed from the system who interacts with the system and controls the system. From the perspective of the secular culture God cannot be defended intellectually, and pragmatically God is not needed. There is simply no place for God in the thinking of modern man who has science to explain all happenings.

So, from the standpoint of the social order, there is no assistance for the lonely believer who is involved in a fundamental search for understanding. From the culture is the agreement that the search itself is in vain; there is nothing to search for because man is alone in the cosmos.

Two, the fact of evil and the ever present manifestation of wickedness make the struggle even more acute. Expressions of evil are pervasive and constant, and they are horrendous and terribly unjust. In the midst of it all the believer wonders why did God, who is holy, allow evil to begin and why does He tolerate its continued existence. The wicked prosper and the righteous suffer—and the God of all seems to do nothing. Evil and its deeds torment the believer.

This is not a new dilemma; several times the psalmist visits this theme, questioning the well-being of the wicked. Injustices abound and there is no Judge to right the wrongs; or if there is a Judge, He seems absent from the bench. Men suffer and suffer greatly. From the innermost contemplations man yearns for some answer. When there is no answer, the struggle intensifies.

Three, man’s inability to think and reflect righteously aggravates the struggle. Sin not only affects my doings, it also contaminates my ruminations. And this is the greatest curse of all; I do not know how to think. I do not ponder properly. My reflections cannot be trusted, for they have been contaminated by evil.

At the heart of my considerations is a self-centered and selfish interest—the focus is on the wrong done to me by the evil around me. What I experience, I feel that I do not deserve; I plead victimization. So my thinking is extremely humanistic or temporal, often without my even being aware of this perverted perspective. My point of view is totally horizontal, with no consideration for the vertical. In other words, my focus is on me and not on Him.

What is needed is a viewpoint that is Theistic and eternal, by which my focus moves from the personal to the Person who is in charge. But apart from grace and the perspective of God’s Word in Scripture that instructs the believer, individual reflections will never be fruitful but will wander in a hopeless maze of humanistic deliberation. For thinking to be productive, the mind must be renewed.

Four, personal experience exacerbates the struggle. For the individual, life is tragic; in the midst of laughter there are tears, in the midst of health there is sudden sickness, and in the midst of birth there is death. As one passes through life, life seems to become a journey from one moment of suffering to another moment of suffering; and the moments rapidly seem to come closer and closer together. Man seeks to make the best of his life but is constantly faced with reversals that culminate in the greatest reversal of all, death and departure into the darkness.

Questions regarding the meaning and purpose of it all abound, and also questions concerning the end of days and eternity. Are all things unfolding according to a determined plan, or is man finally at the mercy of some impersonal fate? If all is determined, then why is it like it is? Why has it not been determined differently? Is life fair? On the personal level, what have I done to deserve the things that have happened to me?

Often the individual thinks that what is does not seem to be right, but specificity eludes the mind. And the struggle continues.

Five, sin is devastating to the struggle. Sin is opposed to Sovereignty, and man is a sinner. Man is in confrontation with God; it is will against Will. At the heart of the struggle are the issues of repentance and submission. Man’s ways must conform to His ways; but, on the part of man, there is neither inclination nor ability to entertain such actions. Man revels in his supposed autonomy and is in no way ready to relinquish it. Sin has no stomach for Sovereignty, for Sovereignty is that which brings salvation from sin and the destruction of sin.

In the midst of the struggle there are really only two choices: God or chance, a Divine determinism or an improbable probability. Neither can be proven in a laboratory; either preference is a faith decision. There is no man who does not believe; every man either believers in God or believes in something else, even if that something else is the belief that there is nothing but the universe.

It must be kept in mind that the options are not many, and the issue is not complicated. But in the crisis of the struggle, Sovereignty can be lost in the thinking and drastically questioned in the thoughts, therefore, removing from the reflection the only basis for hope. For the serious minded the struggle is real. And only the Sovereign God can bring rest to the mind.

It is a sin as much to quarrel with God’s providence as to deny his providence.
If men do not act as we would have them,
they shall act as God would have them.
Thomas Boston
(A Body of Divinity, 125)

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