Monday, October 29, 2012

Balancing #Sandy and Sovereignty

'Hurricane Sandy, Oct.28-29, 2012 at the Outer Banks, NC.  Mostly Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills' photo (c) 2012, dedhed1950 - license:
As I write this, a super storm is pounding the coast of New England. In fact, its eye is making landfall over Manhattan this moment, and the storm itself has already broken more meteorological records than I can count.

I’m sitting 600 miles from its center, and the windy darkness is howling violently around our doors and windows. I can only imagine what it must be like on the coast. I’m thankful to be here, but I tremble for the families who are affected.

As anxious east coast residents stay miles from home with loved ones and wait out the next 24 hours, the minutes will seem like days. Their property and possessions will be laid bare to the fury of a thousand-pound gorilla of a storm with a wimpy name—Sandy. And there’s nothing they can do to stop it.

If we believe in God, storms like Sandy naturally make us think about God’s sovereignty—the doctrine that God is meticulously ordering every circumstance. The doctrine that natural disasters, diseases, calamities and catastrophic events are all under God’s close, watchful eye.

For years, I have stroked my goatee, smiled smugly and affirmed this doctrine. My God is big. He is Creator, and is over all things. He is in control. He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. He simply can’t NOT know all about it, or be in control of it. Nothing happens off His watch. Period.

I believe it's true. But a lot of hard things happen in life. And calamities come in a steady stream around the world, all begging for answers that aren't easy.

Lately, I’ve wondered if the doctrine of God's sovereignty has been a convenient way for me to personally avoid the real, raw emotion of watching calamity unfold—a way to suppress the emotion of the loss in its devastating wake. I’ve been second guessing if it’s human—or helpful—to hover just above the groans in the safety of the doctrine of God’s sovereignty.

I believe in the sovereignty of God. But I believe it can turn my heart to ice if I'm not careful. I’m starting to see that the Bible models a different application of it than I’ve had in the past.

Joseph believed in the sovereignty of God. But he didn’t let it diminish his love for his brothers, even when they betrayed him. He didn’t write them off as a lost cause, as I probably would have.

David believed in the sovereignty of God. But it didn’t numb him from seeing his sin for what it was, being broken over his divided heart, and worshiping God with words that have moved millions after him.

Paul believed in the sovereignty of God. But it didn’t numb him to the sting of Israel’s rejection of Christ. His deep anguish over his lost kinsman was a kind of kindling that helped fuel his heart for missions. He was not OK with their rejection.

But most of all, as the sovereign God Himself, Jesus wasn't even numb to the realities around him. He wept when he learned his friend Lazarus had died. He cried out a wailing lament, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Things got to Jesus that so often don’t get to me, because I believe God is sovereign. What’s wrong with this picture?

Like Joseph and David and Paul and many more, I remain solidly committed to God’s sovereignty. But now, when calamities like Sandy come, I’m choosing sensitivity over smugness. Tears over terse answers. Awe over arrogance. I want to be more merciful, and less matter-of-fact. I'm learning when to speak, and when to just shut up—sticking to what is fitting for the occasion.

I want to embrace God's sovereignty, but still cry like a baby. Still be human.

God, in our knowledge, may we not become puffed up, cold and stoic in the face of calamity. Teach us to be still, and know that You are God.


  1. Amen, Scott. Two terrific posts in a row - that's somethin' for anybody. And I'm so glad to see these here at your fine place. Thanks for this.

  2. "I want to embrace God's sovereignty, but still cry like a baby." yes & amen.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I had the pleasure of reading it on Clay's blog. It moved me to tears. I am subscribing to your blog right now! So beautiful. Thank you!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.