This weekend, my husband Rony and I caught up on one of our favorite TV shows. In this particular episode, one of the main character’s husband passed away. Both of us watched in silence as devastation and shock set in to this character’s heart and life. I became curious about the emotions and experiences of what it means to be “in shock.” In the midst of our deepest pain, I wondered whether or not people genuinely believe God to be “sovereign.”
I asked my husband if he was in shock when his first wife passed away. I began to choke up with tears welling up in my eyes, as Rony shared his experience in the hospital room that day. As he remembered those moments he answered with honesty:
“I was absolutely in shock. The doctor said to me, ‘this could be the last breath she will breathe.’ I was shaking uncontrollably and my legs turned to jello. I collapsed to my knees and buried my head into my hands. There were no words to express my emotions. I couldn’t understand how it happened or that it was even real. Every single thing about my life drastically changed that day and there was NOTHING I could do about it. It was so brutal.”
Whenever we experience the shock of a painful situation, our capacity to cope with what has happened diminishes. There is an instant demolition in the world we used to know. We come face to face with what we believe the world should be like and what the world actually is.
The truth is, life is full of pain, suffering, and adversity. Some of us will walk unimaginable paths that are flooded with a hurricane of tragedy and heartache. Through these valleys of death, some of us will stare straight into the eyes of God’s sovereignty and will have to choose whether or not we trust Him, completely. Walking through the valley leaves us wondering why God would freely allow such immense pain to enter into our lives? Why would He let us suffer even though we have loved Him and been faithful to Him?
God tells us what it means for Him to be sovereign in Isaiah 46:9-10: “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
In his article “Ten Aspects of God’s Sovereignty,” John Piper defines God’s sovereignty as the “ultimate reality of God as the supreme value in and above the universe. God is absolute and eternal and infinite. Everything else and everybody else is dependent and finite and contingent. God himself is the great supreme value. Everything else that has any value has it by connection to God. God is supreme in all things. He has all authority, all power, all wisdom—and he is all good “to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25). And his name, as Creator and Redeemer and Ruler of all, is Jesus Christ.”
When enduring inconceivable suffering, it is often hard to remember that God is still good, still loving, and still in control of ALL things. Knowing that God would be part of and allow such pain into our lives is a hard truth to swallow.
I have come to learn through my own valleys of death that without understanding God’s sovereignty, we will never understand suffering. And if we do not understand suffering, we will never learn how to suffer well for the glory of God. It has been through seasons of my deepest heartache where I have learned that God is in control over all things, including my suffering. It is through my suffering that God has and continues to sanctify me, making me whole and more like Him. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says: In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. In the midst of my greatest trials, God teaches me what it means to fully trust Him and praise Him. In those moments of trusting Him and His great purpose, God is glorified because we are choosing to bow to His sovereignty.
The Sovereignty of God is breath taking. Most of the time we will never come to understand why God allows such grief into our lives, but most often it is through the valley of the shadow of death where God reveals His ultimacy, His authority, and His deep love for us. It is through the greatest adversity where we learn to trust His sovereignty.