At twenty-two, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have decades of life experience under my belt. Still, I’ve done my fair share of worrying about the future and how everything will work out. Will the choices I make cause me to succeed or fail? Now that I’m getting married, my choices don’t just affect me, so will they hurt or help my wife? The biggest worry that has been in the back of my mind has been whether or not I am within God’s will. When I was in High School, I had this idea that I was running away from God and his will for my life. I was in a negative relationship, a Christian only in name and for the longest time considered myself outside of the will of God.
Looking back on that mentality, I can see how how unfounded that belief was. Basically, I was thinking to myself, “at this point in my life, God’s sovereignty does not touch me.” Silly, right? I was of the mind that what I was doing was well within my own sovereignty and I was the master of my own fate. Honestly, knowing what I know now, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions that Christians have is that people can escape the will of God; that their actions are actions God has not permitted. For that to happen, though;
a) a person’s will would somehow need to be stronger that that of the Almighty Creator’s so that it may supersede His plan and,
b) God would be able to be surprised.
Now, I do not believe that I need to explain the fallacious nature of the first one. The second one, though, begs some explanation. In order for God to be surprised, he would need to forgo his omniscience.
That last word is a word that tends to cause a struggle within a lot of people. Their biggest complaint with the omniscience of God is the fact that there is evil in the world. For there to be evil in the world two possibilities exist within the realm of God. Either he does not allow evil and it happens without his knowing and allowance, or he allows it to happen and knows full well that it is happening. The difficulty here is that many people cannot see a good and loving God that also allows evil into the world. However, everything that God does is for His glory. Yes, even the bad that happens in the world glorifies Him, as crazy as that may sound.
The bold claims that this would then purport is that:
God foreordained the Fall of Man.
God foreordained the Holocaust.
God foreordained 9/11.
God foreordained Hurricane Katrina.
It’s easy to forget that God did even send his own people into captivity, numerous times (i.e. the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Romans). Out of each of these instances, God’s glory shone through. Through Egyptian captivity, God rescued his people and showed his power (ex. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, etc.) Through Babylonian captivity, he displayed his protection as they were allowed to rebuild the temples and the walls of Jerusalem (ex. Nehemiah.) Through the Roman rule of his people, he revealed His Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
While we may not see it at the time — and I can assure you, the Israelites did not see the how their captivity could in any way glorify God — God has a plan that ultimately results in his glorification. We can look at these biblical moments in retrospect and see how they glorified God, but in the present, in our struggles and the disparity of our time may seem horrendous and impossible. “How can God idly stand by while…?” or “How can God allow…?” are questions that we may ask as evil seems to prevail in the world. But we are not omniscient as God is. As human beings, we are limited by our finite abilities. We cannot see the future; we cannot see how what is going on now could possibly glorify God.
Forgetting the grand scale, ignoring the rest of the world for the moment, how can the evil or bad times in our lives possibly glorify God? This was something that I struggled with for the longest time. As a suicide survivor, I did not see how my story or life could possibly glorify God. How could someone who deals with daily depression and a history of suicide possibly glorify God?
During my Freshman year of college, I was in my college’s Drama Team. During my time on the team, my mentor wrote a drama around my testimony–my suicide attempts, my relationship, my depression–and we performed it at the Alto Frio Baptist Camp in Texas. After our performances were over, so many students came up to me to confess about their own struggles with depression and suicide and how my testimony (which I had given before the skit) had related to them. It was an extremely powerful and humbling moment as student after student relayed their struggle to me.
What had been the greatest moment of weakness in my life had been turned into God’s greatest strength in my life. Because of that one pivotal moment in my life, everything changed. Because of that, I’m going into counseling with a background in Youth Ministry to help other people, especially teenagers, that are struggling with the same things that I did.
How could I have possibly known that in that moment of time, God had a much greater plan for me. He allowed me to go through the hardships I went through so that he could use the man that I would become from them. Keep in mind that I said God allowed me to go through the temptations that I went through. He was not the one that tempted me and created the sin for me to fall into. As James says in James 1:13 -14, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (ESV).
Through all of this, then, the following conclusions can be gathered:
1. God allowed me to fall into sin
2. Not only did He allow me to do so, it was written from the beginning that I would do so.
3. Along with my fall, He had also written my redemption.
God did not decide those in order, he decided them all at the same time. My fall was the prelude to redemption in order to make his grace and glory shine all the more. Remember Paul’s caution though, that just because in sin, grace abounds all the more, we should not go on sinning, but rather seeking to live a life worthy of Him (Romans 5:20-6:4).
I know that a lot of people have a problem with predestination. Many look back at the modern church’s history of anti-evangelical predestination interpretation and see that as the end result of this Calvinistic line of though. I disagree, but that is a discussion for another time.
After having been through everything that I have in my short time here on Earth and having discovered and truly delved deeply into the Word of God, I have discovered that the idea of predestination does not cast fear in my heart, but rather joy and solace. Whereas it may seem that our decisions lose their value when we realize that they have been predetermined, it is actually the opposite. The fact that our actions and lives glorify God in a way that was predestined before we were even born (Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5, Ephesians 2:10) gives them such a greater meaning. Once we see that our lives are made to glorify God and to continue to honor His kingdom, we should find peace in knowing that such a path has already been laid out for us.