Job declared, “He gives and takes away.” (Job 1:21)
Job screamed, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15)
Friends, God has a revealed will, and it is presented clearly to us in the pages of Scripture. It is not vague, shadowy, foggy, hidden, or mysterious. From reading the Bible, we can learn exactly that which God wishes us to know, and that which he wills for us to do. His commands, precepts, directives, and laws are easily understood. Even those of us who are more simple can read, learn, and daily gain divine wisdom from God’s holy Word.
God also has a mysterious will, and it includes what is ahead of us and how it is all perfectly designed to honor him and benefit his church. And friends, you know this to be true, God’s secret plans are not so clear. Frankly, they are incredibly cloudy and confusing. Oh sure, we can look at history, read our diaries, and ascertain that which God has already sovereignly and mysteriously intended. Hindsight truly is 20/20. However, exactly how our Heavenly Father is working everything out for his glory and our good, this is far beyond our capacities. Life in God’s world is so troubling; consider the many questions we can ask:
- Why did God create Satan in the first place if he knew the pain and consequences to follow?
- Why did the all-seeing God watch and allow the Tempter to enter the Garden of Eden when God could have immediately and eternally banished him to the Lake of Fire?
- Why did God determine to show Joseph the pit and the prison cell before granting him the palace and privilege of rescuing his family?
- Why did God not make it easier for Israel to have faith upon entering the Promised Land; he could have sent his Spirit, won their hearts, and helped them avoid the 40 years of pain in the wilderness?
- Why did God ordain the sorrow of Sara, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah?
- Why did God ordain the abuse Tamar and Esther?
- Why did God ordain the scandalous activities of David and Gomer?
- Why did the Heavenly Father predetermine and perform the brutal sacrifice his only-begotten Son; would not a less harsh sacrificial atonement have sufficed?
- Why has the Heavenly Father orchestrated events in such a fashion that David, Jesus, and countless others have been encouraged to scream, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
- Why is persecution an appointed attribute of the faithful church?
- Why does God appoint and allow church schism?
- Why does God not immediately and perfectly sanctify us? He will mute our wicked flesh in glory; why not now?
- Why does God allow our covenant children to wander and harm themselves? He directs the hearts of kings; why not better direct the hearts of our kids?
- Why does God providentially cause wars, natural disasters, personal disaster, or years of sickness?
- Why does God allow the wicked to prosper?
- Why does God “give and take away?” Why not just give, and give, and give?
- And the questions can go on and on. God’s ways truly are mysterious.
However my friends, in the midst of our perplexing pain, let us not allow ourselves to be deceived by our wicked world, our wicked flesh, and the wicked devil. Let us not become bitter, arrogant, and then dismiss the clear revelation found in God’s Word.
Yes, we hurt.
Yes, we cry.
Yes, we are confused.
Yes, we struggle.
Yes, we evem scream, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
But those of us with faith, we do not neglect the clearly revealed revelation of God, for we know that God has a sovereign will. Children rightly learn to sing, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Adults add to their repertoire, “This is my Father’s world, and let me ne’er forget, that though the wrong seems off so strong, he is the ruler yet.” Our Westminster Fathers pose a question to us, “What are God works of providence?” They then supply us the answer, “God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures, and all their actions.” In writing of God’s sovereignty, Derek Thomas states, “Few things distinguish Christian and secular worldviews with greater clarity than the doctrine of providence. This doctrine insists that everything that happens does so because God wills it to happen, wills it happen before it happens, and wills it to happen in the way that it happens.” Oh troubled believer, what do we know?
- God is omniscient; he does know everything before it comes to pass.
- God is ordaining; he decrees whatsoever comes to pass.
- God is immutable; he never changes his perfect plan even though he changes his posture towards people. Scenes change, but not the flow of the book.
- God is omnipresent; he is always present as everything comes to pass that he has perfectly ordained.
- God is omnipotent; he is always causing and allowing what he desires.
- God gives and takes away; he is not embarrassed of both the pleasure and pain he oversees.
- God, in the person of Jesus, hurts with and for us. He has experienced his own troubling providence. He is the compassionate one who has endured much more sorrow than we will ever know.
- God is gracious; he has promised to more than make up for all the pain he has ordained.
- God is within us. He dwells in our hearts, and he is getting ready to aid us.
Therefore, as we rehearse his revealed will and his sovereign will, we are ready to rightly respond to his mysterious will and our great questions with the theology of Job, “He gives and takes away … though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”