“She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn’t believe
It could happen to me
I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.”
You don’t have to search for suffering in life. Like a phone call out of nowhere, it finds you. Just exist long enough in this fallen world and heartache will march its way up to your doorstep, closest to whatever you call “home.” And as you wade through the waters of sorrow in the aftermath, you will find yourself inextricably bound up in the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty.
That’s exactly what I find as I walk the paths of lingering meditation following Davin’s death. “There is no escape; if God is the Creator, then He is responsible for the presence of [evil]. We might as well face it.” (Reformed is Not Enough, Wilson, 28). That God is in heaven, does all that he pleases, and brings forth both prosperity and calamity are truths I know. But then I don’t really know them. God is still working on that.
And so from time to time I find myself thinking, “This just isn’t fair. My friend who loved the Lord, who was his child, he’s dead. And these crack addicts I see everyday are alive and well.” No, I don’t stand up on an electrical transformer and shout my frustration at God to the hood. And I trust that the Lord is using Davin’s death to the praise of his glory. But the murmur lurks in subtle moments of tried thinking.
As I deal with my anger (among other emotional responses) over Davin’s passing, and about any or all of my frustrated expectations, I realize it’s a response ultimately tied to the question of God’s fairness. But when you dig a bit more, or when God’s word starts digging at you, it becomes clear that my angry response is one of arrogance. “How dare the Lord do this to me or to my friends. I deserve better than this.”
Into the abyss and void of my sorrowful thinking Jesus speaks. “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 19:15).
I feel like I (or my friends) deserve better. But Jesus corrects my mistaken notion kindly and firmly; the world operates not on the principle of desert, but of mercy. If God was really fair, I’d be killed instantly for the sin I committed in the last five hours of my life. I wasted his air. I tried to steal his glory. No, as long as I exist on this earth, I am alive because of mercy. So there can be no talk of “I deserve” unless it is about wrath and hell and the offense of his glory.
As we live out our lives in the midst of God’s sovereign purposes, some dark and some bright, we cannot help but be humbled. But something starts to happen as we kneel in the dust, as we silently embrace the stroke of God (Lamentations 3); he changes our hearts to delight in his wise disposal of all things, to actually find somber joy in his painting of the picture of redemptive history. Jonathan Edwards said,
I have often since had not only a conviction [of God’s sovereignty] but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so (Desiring God, 38).
This is the supreme grace I find in the midst of this ordeal: God is teaching me to rejoice in his absolute right to do all that he pleases, to submit humbly to his crushing blow, and to be satisfied, in tears, with his brush stroke of glory. He patiently wrestles right along with me. He teaches my heart to delight in his will, and in time to say,
“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes… in faithfulness you have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:71, 75).