This is a thought that has been running through my heart/head a lot lately, as I've been hearing sermons on God's sovereignty and reading about it. I think it was actually a quote in one book in particular, but I've heard it repeated by many people when discussing God's sovereignty. We were actually talking about this whole topic again at Bible study last night, as our pastor has been preaching on God's providence. The thing that came up several times in our discussion, which was very convicting to me, is that we must be careful when talking and thinking about God's providence/sovereignty. It is very easy to come across as cavalier and uncaring when discussing all of this. I think this is something I, personally, can easily fall into. It's not that I don't care, that I can look at every bad situation and just say "God's in charge - deal with it." But, when talking about things, I know I can easily come across that way. I'm sure I've come across that way on this blog! My sweet, well-spoken husband often reminds me that I tend to think out loud, so I have to be careful when talking about subjects like this because I can come across very callous (he doesn't use those words, but that's what he means!). Then, we stubmled upon something in talking last night that made things click, and helped me to better explain how saying God is sovereign does not mean I'm saying "just suck it up and deal with it."
Here it is - just because God works good out of all situations doesn't mean the situation is good in and of itself. Nothing can make murder a "good" thing; nothing can make rape "good"; nothing can make the death of a child "good." But, as the verse in Romans points out, God works good out of all things. We've been studying the story of Joseph. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." The same word is used in this sentence for both the brothers' intentions and God's intentions. The verse does not say "God intended good in the situation." Joseph is referring to all his brothers did to him - they stripped him naked, threw him into a pit (with hard sides), and sold him to slave traders. They very obviously intended all they did to him, and they intended it to harm him. Now look closely back at that verse - Joseph doesn't say "but God intended all those things to be good things, so I've figured out a better way to look at it." No - he says "God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done . . .." The brothers' intentions were simplistic and short-sighted - they wanted to harm their brother, so they took each opportunity that came to them to accomplish this purpose (they didn't start off plotting to sell him to slave traders - it just kind of worked out that way). But God's intentions are much larger - He intended to plant Israel in the heart of Egypt and save "many lives" in the process. He intended, ultimately, to save the world. In order to do this, bad things happened along the way. This does not make the bad things good - to put it bluntly, Joseph's situation sucked! BUT, God planned, from the beginning, to work good out of the situation. This does not mean Joseph can look at his past and say "that was good, what my brothers did to me." Notice he never says that to them! We should (I should!) never expect someone to be able to look at what God has brought about after a situation and say "that situation was good because this happened as a result." A bad situation is bad, no matter what God works out of it. But what we can say, and what we can place our hope, our faith, our trust in, is that GOD WILL BE GLORIFIED and, as a result, we will be changed, for good. In the midst of hard times, we do not put our faith in the resolution of the situation, thinking God will make this situation good. He doesn't promise that - in fact, in the Bible, God tells us that we, as Christians, will have troubles in this world. What we do put our faith in is God, that He is good and that He will accomplish His purposes, and that His purposes are worth accomplishing - even if we don't see the end result. And that last statement could lead us into a whole other discussion, but it's time to get some kids out of bed so . . . that's all for now!