Twice I’ve written to you lessons I’ve learned about the sovereignty of God. The first lesson was about the loss of my marriage to divorce. God’s sovereignty means don’t despair, He is in control. The second lesson was about the loss of my father to death. God’s sovereignty means He is the center of the universe. The world does not revolve around me. Today’s lesson is about the loss of my trust in God.
This loss of trust in God occurred when my younger brother died at the age of 46. I didn’t lose my faith, but I did lose my trust. I still believed everything I’d always believed, but now what I believed made me angry. I no longer trusted in God’s sovereignty. Sadly, lessons one and two did not help. I needed another lesson.
The “Miracle Child”
My brother Ron was a never ending stream of wit and stimulating conversation, the spark of life in our otherwise quiet, rather dull family. He was also, paradoxically, the “sickly child” over whom we fretted. Throughout childhood, he’d had fevers “of undiagnosed origin.” At age 22, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. A friend suggested Ron contact a famous faith healer of the day. His response was: “If God wants me well, He don’t need no faith healer. If He wants me in heaven, a faith healer won’t be able to hold my feet to the ground.”
Ron didn’t die as we’d anticipated. He got “well,” but not completely. His fevers continued. He married, had children; worked and played like a healthy man. He assumed he would die young, as our father had, so he burned the candle at both ends. Otherwise, he left his life in God’s hands.
At 39 he was hospitalized with a sore throat, which quickly developed into sepsis. Every system was shutting down and his brain was swelling. We were keeping an around-the-clock vigil. His death was expected to be imminent. Again, he didn’t die! He woke up and lived for another seven years. Now he was our “miracle child,” the one upon whose God’s hand of blessing rested.
Trust Replaced With Blasphemy
The fateful week began normally and ended with my treacherous slide into blasphemy. Ron ignored a sore throat and fever, as he often did, until he collapsed at work with a temperature of 105 degrees. My mother, two daughters and I left for Michigan to be with him and help his family. Before leaving, I made a quick call to my pastor. “I know if God doesn’t heal my brother, it won’t be because He isn’t able,” I said, a bit proud of my doctrinal correctness. I knew God was able to heal Ron, and I assumed He would. He always had.
When we got to Michigan, within seconds of entering my brother’s home we learned that my brother had already died. My mom simply breathed a sad, “Oh, no,” accepting God’s will in her quiet way. But I became completely unhinged. I screamed NO a hundred times, pulling my hair, pounding the floor, the walls, even the chest of the stranger who broke the news, yelling, “Don’t tell me that, you can’t say that, he can’t be dead!” — giving lie to the confident expression of faith I had made to my pastor, and disregarding the terrified eyes of my young daughters. I had truly lost my mental and spiritual bearings.
I raged against God, not for a few hours or a few months, but for a few years! My brother had not gotten well, and it wasn’t because God was not able. God was fully able, but He had killed him. He’d killed him before we could get there to say goodbye, killed him while his wife was at home fixing lunch for the kids. He died alone, murdered by God.
I was not able to say, as Job had:
“Though He slay me [or anyone I love], yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15).
I wore myself out beating on God’s unyielding chest, asking, “How can You, a murderer, expect us to call You good?”
Who’s Really in Control?
Instead of striking me dead, God listened to my hateful and spiteful rants. At some point, I started pondering the alternative. Did I think I should have been the one to decide when my brother would die? Projecting into the future, I wondered how I would know the best time? That is too big a responsibility for me, or for any human. It was then that I realized this all-important truth — only God knows enough to make life and death decisions.
“The Lord brings death and makes alive” (1 Samuel 2:6).
Who was I to think I could advise God?
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
I had reenacted Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. Satan, the real murderer, the original liar, had whispered in my ear and I had listened.
“You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4).
I had believed that I knew better than God. What pride, what arrogance, what blasphemy. Focusing solely on the control aspects of the sovereignty of God, it was no longer comforting — it was maddening.
Learning to Rest in God
God’s attributes cannot be separated from each other. In Ron’s death, God had been merciful, kind, good, and present. Ron’s death came at the time only God could know was right. I don’t need to understand or like it, I just need to TRUST Him. He is always all that He declares Himself to be.
I finally rested like a child in His arms; I rest there still. God is sovereign, and good — even when His ways are incomprehensible. Would God be God if we could understand Him? Has an experience of yours caused you to question God’s goodness? How have you reconciled the “worst things” in your life with what you know about God from His Word and from your own experience with Him? Will you place your trust in your Creator, the one Who knows you best and loves you most — the One who alone is LORD?
“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you” (Nehemiah 9:6).
Will you, with the multitudes of heaven, worship Him, our Sovereign God?