Last spring as I was working my way through Habakkuk for the first time, something a preacher said about grief really caught my attention and made me think about it in a whole new light.
It was Tullian Tchividjian whose words spoke powerfully, “Grief is an expression of worship.”
What he meant and went on to describe was that every feeling we have when we grieve is a declaration that this world is not our home, that something more exists and our hearts recognize and long for that. The mere feeling of grief is a way to worship God, testifying to his great plan for more, for true life. I hadn’t thought of that. I always thought of worship, if it came, as something that happens in spite of grief. But there’s an element of worship right there in my grief.
So what are we to do with that?
Tchividjian, in that impactful sermon, reminded believers to express it rather than suppress it. I’ve long realized the benefit of such a practice for the sake of my own healing process. Of course we’d agree that it’s not healthy to stuff feelings inside; issues are delayed in their resolution. But expressing it for the glory of God? Never thought about it!
When I read the first words God speaks in response to Habakkuk’s cries I realize immediately that everything about my evolving response to suffering hinges on my confidence in God’s sovereign control over all things, not forgetting his nature of love, as well. He tells him,
“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” (Habakkuk 1:5)
Not only does he mention his involvement, God clearly states that He is the initiator of this suffering that’s about to get a whole lot worse for his people:
“For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.” (Habakkuk 1:6)
That’s a hard truth to take. The Chaldeans were a force more evil than I can imagine, and they were going to overtake this nation so precious to God. And GOD did this. What??
I know people resolve this difficulty in many different ways, but here’s how I handle it. I am certain of one thing: if God brings suffering my way, it’s from a place of genuine love, care for my soul, and desire for intimacy with me.
The rest of the Bible tells me so.
Some people think that bad things happen apart from God’s control, but I don’t. And I’m glad Scripture has proven it to me, because, well….where’s the comfort in the other way of thinking?
I love how John Piper said it:
“Pain and loss are bitter providences….but O, the folly of trying to lighten the ship of suffering by throwing God’s governance overboard. The very thing that the tilting ship needs in the storm is the ballast of God’s good sovereignty, not the unburdening of deep and precious truth. What makes the crush of calamity sufferable is not that God shares our shock but that his bitter providences are laden with the bounty of love.”
His love and sovereignty work in conjunction with one another all the time; one character trait isn’t given at the expense of the other. And that is good news for me! I have come to believe that the true measure of my healing in hardship is my experience of God’s love in it. Thank you, Lord, for ushering healing into my heart; I crave so much more of it.
He wants me to understand his place in orchestrating the events of my life, confident that his purposes are good and loving. And that is why I can bring my anger to him – because there is no one else to blame. Directing it to Him expresses my belief in a sovereign God, and wouldn’t that honor Him?? I like to think He enjoys being credited with lordship over all things.
At some point, I’ll resume sharing more about the sweet truths in Habakkuk that ministered to my heart this year, but for now I’m interested in hearing your thoughts –
Where are you in your journey to reconcile the concept of God’s sovereignty over evil with his guaranteed nature of love? I know we can’t fully understand, but is it somewhat “settled enough” in your heart and mind? Or do you wrestle through it a lot still?