Wrestling, Part 1

In an interview I listened to on the radio years ago, the guest of honor said if God was going to use one in a specific area, he would make that one experience it personally first. Those who have not experienced difficult struggles cannot fully empathize with those who have. The “hard way” seems to be my favorite textbook in the class of life. My hope is that when you read what I’ve experienced, you can learn faster than I did and save yourself much worry and tears. Wrestling, Part 1, is the story of my struggle trying to understand God’s sovereignty and predestination*. In part two I will share the verses and quotes God used to save me from this downward spiral and confirm his lesson.

A friend of mine was enrolled in an online theology course. Excited to share what she was learning, she told me God controls everything, even our thoughts, and we are unable to think or act independently of him. I listened intently, fascinated by her new knowledge and (I must admit) a little jealous of the opportunity she had to study theology. After our conversation I was thinking about what she said, processing the logistics of being unable to think or act independently of our Creator. The following were questions that arose in my mind, the first leading to the next and so on:

  1.  If God is good and all he creates is good and for our good according to Scripture, then how was he able to make Satan for the purpose of rebelling, rejecting God and causing destruction?
  2. If we have no ability to think or act independently of our Creator, then he would have had to create some of us to act in evil ways.
  3. If the making of Satan, evil and evil doers was for the purpose of proving himself to all creation, is that considered a good purpose, and so justifies God creating evil, if he did in fact establish it?
  4. By this line of logic then, God designed me to choose my two ex husbands. God also designed each of them to do what they did and hurt me for the purpose of bringing me closer to God. However, I would have sought God anyway because I had it in my heart to be a nun when I was little. SO THEN, my feeling of victory from surviving 13 years with my ex husbands wasn’t really a victory at all? Rather, I am no smarter or wiser than I was. I am just walking out what God designed?
  5. How can a good God cause hurt to people, even eternal damnation, to glorify himself if he is all good, and everything he does is good?
  6. Why are we asked to pray for each other if God created us unable to think independently of his inspiration and if he had already determined each person’s life and eternity?
  7. Does this imply he will adjust our predestined outcome in response to our prayers?
  8. And if he created us to be unable to think independently of his inspiration, is that his predestination?

The swiftness of germination of the seeds of doubt still amazes me. This line of thinking caused me MORE worry, fear, and sadness…not less. John 10:10 says the THIEF comes only to steal, kill, and destroy but [God] has come that we may have life more abundantly. My thoughts clearly display the destruction of my peace, my trust in God, and my happiness. Therefore, according to Scripture, the information I was given to think about was not from God, but from Satan.

My mom, a faithful follower of Jesus, provided me with the best explanation I’ve heard on predestination. According to Psalm 139:16, God knew us before we were ever conceived in our mother’s womb. The Lord knew BEFOREHAND who would choose him when they entered life on earth, and who would not. Predestination is where, based on that foreknowledge, God chose who would be conceived, and who would not. However, predestination is NOT complete control. We DO, in fact, have the ability to think and act independently of God’s inspiration, which is why Satan became prideful, thought he could do better, and rebelled against God.

God is, in fact, good ALL the time. Everything he is and does is good. In him there is no evil according to Psalm 92:15. Because God is good and everything he does is good, then the Lord cannot create evil. He can’t do it; it’s not in his character. Which brings up another excellent point: there is a huge difference between God MAKING something happen, and God ALLOWING it to happen. We live in a fallen world, and we are a fallen people. There is no avoiding the fact; we ate the forbidden fruit, got kicked out of the Garden, and evil is the consequence (Genesis 3). So God does not MAKE bad things happen; we are simply living out the consequences of many unwise choices, multiplied generations over. However, in his goodness our Lord sees how he can use these events and people to get our attention. Our Father sees how he can use unplanned, unwanted suffering to show us how much he loves us (Romans 8:28). So although he could divinely stop bad things from happening, our Lord would have to take back the gift he gave us at our creation: our intelligence, our ability to think freely, and all that makes us created in his image (Genesis 1:27). Our heavenly Father does not like when bad things to happen to good people. It breaks his heart! However, in his brilliance and mercy he uses our sufferings to wake us up, teach us, discipline us, and draw us closer to him.

If my God is big enough to do miracles, he’s too big for me to fully comprehend. There is so much I don’t know or understand. However, I do know this: I like my life much better, I like me better living for my God!

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon…to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Psalm 92:12, 15 ESV

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28 NLT

*Predestination – noun, the decree of God by which certain souls are foreordained for salvation. http://www.dictionary.com

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