I’ll briefly share with you a few of my questions:
1. Is God sovereign?
2. Is God my provider?
3. Should we go?
Is God sovereign? Is he in control of all things? Even the falling sparrow?
With all the unknown in this decision, a good God’s awareness and control became really important to me.
This issue has been difficult for me to grasp for a long time. In my years as an emergency physician, I’ve seen people in the most trying of circumstances. So many lost loved ones, children and adults. Elderly living out their last years in mental and physical conditions they wouldn’t have chosen for their enemy. Deforming traumatic injuries. So many lost dreams, broken plans. Man doing to man the most hideous, painful things. I had people die before me and I knew that if I had treated them differently, they would have lived. Hindsight without God’s perspective can be so cruel. We all live there at times, don’t we? “If only I would have …” I can’t begin to tell you how many times God had me coming to Him in a place of confusion and pain, questioning. We’ve all witnessed on the news, the hurricanes, the displaced people, the acts of terror. There’s a tropical belt of poverty in Asia, Africa, Latin America that is full of suffering and death, profoundly different than where we live. In 2005, one in three children die before the age of five in this area. After my first trip to Haiti, I had such a struggle dealing with what I saw. I didn’t understand.
I still don’t understand. Please see Prov 3:5-6. The way I’d typically handled this verse went something like this: On the one hand, I admit I don’t understand and I ask God to direct my steps, and then, on the other hand, I whine when the outcome doesn’t fit my understanding.
Why should we not depend on understanding? Isn’t it interesting that when God looked for an example of our ability to understand the things of God, He compared us to sheep. Well, we’ve owned sheep, and God’s expectations of us are not very high.
When my kids were smaller, they’d hammer me with “why” questions: Why do we have to go to sleep? Why do we have to get a shot? Why do I have to eat that? Our questions are not that different. Why do we hurt? Why do we have to wait? Why did this happen? I’ve learned that God delights in our questions, as they are an opportunity for Him to connect with us. Most of what we ask about, we really can’t understand, but we are invited to His lap, for “why” questions, and to renew our trust in our Father, our Shepherd, who cares, and is in control.
Bets and I had the most amazing conversation with a Dr Kojo and Chris and Susie Cannell in their living room last year. He’s from Sierra Leone and has lived thru one of the most gruesome terrorist eras in world history. Millions have been tortured and killed over diamonds. Thousands of young adults are living without both arms because 10 – 15 yrs ago, the terrorists cut off their arms, as kids, to get cooperation of their village. I asked Dr Kojo how he processed this in light of God being good and in control. He replied simply that he saw each wound and each broken life, each injustice, as an opportunity for God to demonstrate His love and touch. He’s seen thousands, many without arms, come to Jesus in the midst of incredible, impossible to understand, circumstances.
In Jn 9:2-3, Jesus’ disciples ask the age-old question—“why is this person suffering?” Jesus answers—–So God could be glorified, and His power seen. I think that God wants us to know that every pain, every affliction, every illness, as well as every blessing..… represents an opportunity for God to show His power, in goodness and love, as well as healing.
God’s specialty is turning pain to beauty. Life’s difficulties and pain are opportunities for Him, through us, to do this. When someone is hurting, God is certainly glorified when we pray TO HIM and they’re healed. He’s also glorified when we, His people, step into a hurting person’s life and care. And, perhaps, He’s glorified greatest, when we suffer and cling to God in it. We’ve all been encouraged in our faith when we’ve seen people trusting God, and testifying to His goodness, while in the midst of painful circumstances.
So God’s sovereignty was an issue with me again. Simply because of the unknown involved in our move. Our call involves stepping into a new culture with new language, new environment, new acquaintances.
This leaves me with a feeling of insecurity and vulnerability, that causes me to ask some more questions.
Is God in control of disease, of people, of animals?
Snake story In Jan and Feb of this year, our family lived in Altamira – where we are moving to. While we were there, a deadly snake was found in the yard where our kids played every day. Is God incontrol of such things?
Is it safer here than there? Here, where I may perceive its safer,
Meredith story–struck by car, here where it’s "safe", twelve hrs later…
Ben story–large mass under his arm, gave us great anxiety until we saw he was to be ok. –it developed here, in the states, where it’s "safe"
God used these tangible experiences to illustrate to me, that each moment of life is precious, fragile, unpredictable—and God—-a loving, good God, is aware of, and in control of, every circumstance no matter where we are
Is God in control of my marriage?
Bets and I were in such different places for a while
This caused me to forget her beauty and all the years I loved her.
I asked God, “What if I’d have married someone else?” Wouldn’t things be so much better?
At times, I saw Bets as an enemy, standing in the way of God’s plan for us
You may be at such different places than your spouse, and its become a wedge between you. Your spouse is NOT the enemy, but the real battle is, will you trust the sovereign God who brought you together. I had to trust Him to speak to Bets. She had to trust Him to speak to me. I can’t tell you how many times God told me to shut up, trust Him, and love her as she is. Bets and I had some things to work thru, and always will, but I’m convinced even those things were chosen for us, by a good God, for His good purposes.
Is God in control of the timing?
Did I walk in the flesh for the twenty yrs since the initial “call”?
Was medicine the right decision? I could’ve been on the mission field twenty yrs by now
Did I marry the wrong person and get sidetracked?
Did earthly things take priority over heavenly things? I had a missionary doc in Haiti tell me that if I went back to the prosperity and comforts of the states, I’d never come back to the third world. Is this what happened?
If God’s in control, He’s in control of timing- He’s brought us to this place, in this time, for this purpose. Bets and I have marveled at the support and encouragement we have in this place, in this time. This past several months has felt like one long pat on the back. We are so grateful. Dennis uses a term, “factored in”. All our free will decisions, all our mistakes, all our circumstances, are factored in and to God’s plan and purposes. I may see, with my eyes, His purposes unfold, and I may not. He encouraged me one morning that this may be the 1st step for something He wants to accomplish through my kids or their kids.
Is God in control of me?
This is a big one. I have so many motives in me. Godly, fleshly, and otherwise. My decisions can change based on what I ate for breakfast! James says a double-minded man is unstable. I wish I could get it down to two!!—- I am so flawed, is God still in control? Can I, by my choices, mess up His plans for me, my kids, my wife?
Just to share some of what’s in me…
There’s a restlessness in me. Is this half-time or Mid-life. In looking around at other men my age, it seems there is something that men my age commonly go through. I read a good book on this called “Half-time” that did recognize this as common and normal. Is this part of my motivation? Probably. My challenge is to use this process wisely and submit to Jesus as I move on with the second half of my life.
Is self part of my motivation?— CS Lewis said, “I’ve never had an unselfish thought.”….love of adventure, achievement, a desire for some other change—its’ in there
Is desire for eternal rewards in there?—its in there
Is the desire to help others see God as He is, and feel His deep affection for them, in there?—its in there
Is a Good Samaritan desire to take health care to those without in there?—its in there
Its all in there—-
Is God sovereign over all this, and me?
One of my life proverbs is “we all are screwed up”. God, thru this wrestling process, has graciously revealed my screwedupness to me again and that, more importantly, He is sovereign over it. He’s reminded me graciously that I’m a sheep, He’s the shepherd.
And also that he delights in using screwed up, broken people to do his work. Christian history is full of stories of God using flawed, screwed up people to bring His beauty to broken, ugly places. Actually, if we recognize our screwedupness this morning, in God’s economy, that is our invitation to usefulness. If you’re facing a decision today, God’s bigger than your ability to screw things up. His call is for us to come to Him, as we are, available… and we can trust Him with the outcome.
While wrestling over this sovereignty issue in the midst of a painful circumstance, one day God gave me a picture of a father and son
The son is sitting on His father’s lap, working on something with his hands, on a table. The father is delighted to have his son’s participation in this, the father’s project. His hands are near the son’s hands, while the son works, aware of every move of the son’s hands. There is no criticism in the father while he observes, only guidance and instruction. The father is fully able to alter the movements and choices of the son. He can end the task, begin a new one, the father is in complete control of the outcome, while, at the same time, allowing full participation by the son in the project.
This picture has helped me pray, Picture the son asking, “How about this way, Dad?”, "Could we do it this way?", etc. and the Father responding, “sure” or “try this”, etc. Jesus says we are invited to interact with One who so cares more than a father, and has the power to change things.
God’s allowed me to wrestle with sovereignty for a long time
He still has not brought me to a place of understanding, but rather to a place of acceptance that He is aware of, and in complete control of, every circumstance, and that He is good. In Hannah Hurnard’s book, Hind’s Feet on High Places, the character, Much-Afraid journeys to the High Places with her shepherd, thru the valley of humiliation. Her first milestone, which of course follows a difficult circumstance, is marked by a flower called “acceptance with joy”. It’s where our shepherd desires to bring us. It’s a place of trust – in who He is.