A Comfort Beyond Measure
My times are in God’s hand. I find great comfort in this fact particularly because of three things that are true about God – he is good, he is omniscient and he is omnipotent. If he is not good, I have every reason to fear his sovereign power. If he is not omniscient, then his plans might be misguided or have unintended consequences. If he is not omnipotent, then he is unable to do all that he has promised and my times are not really in his hands.
This is especially important when confronted with trials or threatened by evil. God’s providential care is a rock that believers have anchored their faith to for centuries. However, God’s providential care is in jeopardy if sinful creatures’ actions are outside of his will.
But this is exactly what I have heard some Christians say. Attempting to defend God’s goodness and armed with the knowledge that God is not the author of sin, they say that it is not God’s will when evil befalls us. Not only does this contradict Scripture, but I don’t see how it is comforting to diminish the power of the One we are counting on to deliver us from evil.
In fairness to those who make such a statement, most are probably not trying to imply that our freedom to choose is on a par with God’s sovereignty, but it might sound that way to the seeker or to a new believer. If human freedom holds such power, then all that goes on around us in this fallen world is a threat to us. On the contrary, according to the Bible, God’s sovereign control of his creation is not threatened by the free will choices of his creatures.
I think the problem arises when we try to define a good God as one who does not allow evil that he has the power to prevent. This is not the definition used in the Bible which proclaims repeatedly that God is good despite the fact that he allows evil as part of his will. We need look no farther than the book of Job or Jesus’ crucifixion to see that God’s plan and his will include suffering and evil that he could prevent if he wanted to. How else could Jesus say of his impending crucifixion – “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”?
Certainly God is not the author of evil. Just as certainly, though, God is not wringing his hands wondering what to do when it occurs. An inclination to defend God’s goodness may stem from a misconception of all that omnipotence entails. Consider this from Millard Erickson:
We must recognize here the amazing nature of divine omnipotence. If God were great and powerful, but not all-powerful, he would have to originate everything directly, or he would lose control of the situation and be unable to accomplish his ultimate purposes. But our omnipotent God is able to allow evil men to do their very worst, and still he accomplishes his purposes. (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, Copyright 1983, 1984, 1985, Baker Book House Company, p 400)
So, when we claim anything is not part of God’s will, especially evil, we are actually making the point we are trying to avoid – that we cannot know with certainty that God can protect us (should he so choose) from the evil free will choices of his creatures. We have placed a limit on his omnipotence, one that is not warranted by Scripture.
But you might protest and say that God is able to turn the evil intent of sinners into something good as he did with Joseph (Genesis 50:20) and certainly with Jesus (Acts 2:36). There is a problem with this idea that God’s sovereignty as it relates to evil is reactive rather than proactive:
“… some will simply say that all Romans 8:28 means is that God will turn this evil thing, a thing that he could not help from happening, into some sort of good for us. They present a God suddenly sovereign enough to reverse the situation, a situation he wasn’t sovereign enough to stop in the first place.” (Dave Zuleger, Desiring God, Can a Good God Bring Pain)
I don’t find much comfort in the providential care of a God who is a part-time, semi-sovereign deity. There is no guarantee that the creation will not spin out of control with evil getting the upper hand creating a situation too dire for God to fix.
God’s plan is not an afterthought or a work in progress. When I am in the midst of a trial I don’t find comfort in the fact that God is smart enough to come up with a plan B that just might work. I find comfort in the fact that God has been working all things together for good – from the beginning of time.
Everlasting arms that do not grow weary of holding me, hands from which no one can snatch me, a love that endures forever, goodness that leads me to repentance and a mind that knows the end from the beginning are good enough for me. They all come together in a wondrous providence that is a comfort beyond measure.