Understanding and knowing God in His sovereignty and what the ramifications are of this, have implications all across the board of our lives, practically speaking. It is like planting an oak tree by a mountain stream or building a house on solid rock. It gives firm ground for you to stand on and hope in the midst of adversity, that the Lord orders your trials, every aspect, for your good in being conformed to Christ and most importantly of all, for His glory. The Lord is sovereign and reigns from His throne above, in control of the good and bad. Read the book of Job, the whole thing. Read the conclusions of Job. Nothing is outside of the Lord’s grasp. Nothing.
If God is not in control of all things, even evil, even ordering our trials, then we have much reason to fear. When Paul states in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” how could He say this if God were not in control of all things, including all of our trials? How could our trials work for our good if God has not ordered them? This is our only hope! If God is not in control, we have a God who is less than powerful. But this is how sovereign He is, that He is sovereign even over sin and is yet without sin at the same time! Though this is incomprehensible to the natural mind of man, it is a theme throughout the Bible, particularly illustrated in the Old Testament, and it is a theme from my subjective experience that has given me so much hope in the midst of some of the most terrible things. He orders and controls all things. There is nothing outside of His grasp.
My mother was sexually abused by her mother when she was young. She was gang-raped, multiple times, when she was older. Later in life, she broke down mentally when I was about 4 and her mind split into multiple personalities. She went into mental hospitals multiple times, attempting to commit suicide from her manic depression over and over again. She passed away unexpectedly 3 weeks after Courtney and I were married. How can I say that God is sovereign over all of these events? My question is, how can He not be? What other hope do I have? If He’s not, then man my God is small, and less than able to deliver me. But if He’s sovereign and allowed it, ordaining these things from before the foundation of the world even, then I have nothing to fear and my hope lies not in anything of myself but all my hope is in Him, that He is bringing these things in love for my good and His glory. He brought these things into my life to draw me closer to Christ, to conform me more and more to His image.
The natural, sinful reaction of mankind to trials is the response of Job’s wife in Job 2:9 after having lost their children, property, and after Job lost His health: “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.'” And what is Job’s response in verse 10? Pay attention to this: “But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?‘ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job knew God had ordered these things. Though Satan carried out these attacks, is he not on a leash before God? Must he not ask God’s permission to do the things he does? And Why did God allow it? For the good of Job and his wife, and God’s glory. It seems backward to our natural minds. God has Satan on a leash and he can only do what God allows him to do. If a trial comes into the believer’s life, it is brought for the purpose of conforming us to the image of Christ and bringing glory to God. This is our only hope in this cursed world of sin and suffering, for us who believe.
Apart from being in Christ, believing in Him for salvation, none of this applies. There is no hope that the trials brought are for the good of unbeliever’s. In fact, the trials further deepen the wrong convictions of unbeliever’s that God is the problem. God sends pain to the unbelieving world to rouse deaf ears to believe in Christ (borrowing from C.S. Lewis), and for the most part the trials are to no avail. To them, none of the bad things that occur in this life will work out for good in the end, as long as they stay in unbelief. For the unbeliever it will be pain in this life, and eternal pain beyond comprehension for all eternity because of sinning done against a holy, infinite God. I plea with you to believe in Christ. He is your only hope, that He bore the sin of any who would believe in Him, died, and rose again. And this is our only hope, daily, for us who believe as well. Recite the Gospel to yourself daily, for it is a heart of the believer’s walk.
Some articles pertaining to these things:
The Sovereignty of God (Scriptural Evidence)
Suffering and Sovereignty of God – Desiring God 2005 National Conference
Was Katrina Intelligent Design? – John Piper
Why I Do Not Say, “God Did Not Cause the Calamity, but He Can Use it for Good – John Piper
Tsunami and Repentance – John Piper