Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Supremacy of Christ in the Midst of Sorrow

Wednesday night at 5:30, Steven Curtis Chapman’s 5 year old daughter died tragically in an accident on their driveway. It took no time for the tragic news to spread; Christians all over the world have been grieving with and praying for the family of one of their favorite musicians. Maria Sue Chapman was adopted from China along with two other of his six children.

Many of you may not know this, but Steven’s family is probably the reason that I have two adopted sisters of my own. The Chapman’s love of adoption and vision for other Christians in adoption is used by God everyday. Maria was loved as much as any daughter could be, and having an adopted 5 year old sister, I couldn’t begin to imagine that magnitude of pain felt by Steven, Mary Beth, and the other children. It is a truly horrible tragedy and everyone should keep their family in their prayers.

Even in the midst of such overwhelming sorrow, something must be stood up for, something that I know the Chapmans and their wonderful church in Nashville hold to. The undeniable truth, even through the pain of such an event, is that God is completely sovereign. God is entirely in control and is not the least bit surprised or confused by this.

It seems hard to grasp, and it is. To think that a good God could have his hand in such a catastrophic thing seems impossible to justify. How could a loving God who is in control let such a terrible thing happen? It would seem that either God’s omnipotence or goodness were in question.

Here is the answer, and I stand by it till death. God is completely, entirely in control. Hard as it is to grasp, this is God’s purpose for the Chapman family, and for His glory. It is ultimately good, in ways that we will never understand. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things for good, and he is. I know that the Chapmans believe this, and I pray that even in the midst of unbearable pain, we would give God the glory and honor that he is due! The Chapmans, in the midst of the greatest pain any of them have ever felt, have a chance to REALLY MAKE GOD LOOK GLORIOUS!

It is completely understandable to struggle with this. Even Jonathan Edwards said that the supreme sovereignty of God seemed at once to be a “Horrible Doctrine”, but once he saw both in God’s word and in his own experiences that God’s sovereignty gives us a God who is in control of the situation, and working it towards a greater good, rather than a God who is at the mercy of fate, it changed both his ministry and his life.

Do you see the comfort associated with God’s sovereignty? Rather than letting Theodicy lead you to a God who is not in control, and doesn’t even know what will happen, let God’s Sovereignty answer the problem of evil! Are we to be more satisfied if we keep God good in our minds by letting him be distant and uninvolved in our problems, or constantly with us and the author of our lives and faith who will work all things for his Glory and our joy?

Nothing could be more comforting than a God who is in control, and conversely, I couldn’t imagine anything more terrifying than a God who is at the mercy of men and fate.

Samuel Rodigast spoke of both the difficulty in accepting, and comfort of knowing these truths in his hymn “Whate’er My God Ordains is Right”

"Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart."

Though it seems bitter at the time, knowing that God is sovereign and has his hand in the situation, we need to realize that our finite minds can only see the moment and that God sees the whole picture and is working everything out for his glory and our joy.

It is a horrible thing to see all this. To listen to “Cinderella” is close to impossible, but in the midst of this unspeakable pain, the Chapmans know, and I know, that God is just as in control now as he ever was. Our Sovereign Father was in the same place Wednesday night, that he was when he watched his own son hang on the cross. He was there, involved, completely in control. What could be more comforting?

All Glory in heaven and on earth be to our God
He is enough
He is good
He will take care of us



___________________________ said...

I question the promotion of a theological point from a tragedy. I don't mean that it is wrong for a person to take comfort in their views due to a tragedy, I mean using that in the course of some debate.

I mean, paragraphs 7 and 8 seem to be open attacks on open theism: which may be a doctrine you and the Chapman's consider heretical but human suffering should not just be a starting point for theological argumentation.

Yes, it can be very important to establish good theology, and perhaps to remember God's glory. But, we need to remember that tragedies ARE tragedies and that this pain is certainly real to the sufferers.

Ryan Martin said...

You missed the point. That is where comfort lies! A God who is able to help us and comfort us, is a God who is in control. What a terrible
misinterpretation of the scriptures it is to place God behind fate. The God of the Bible is in control, and will work things out for us! That is comforting SOOOOO much more than an uncaring or unknowing God who stands at a distance.

I do not in the least seek theological argumentation. I would find it very illogical for me to refrain from speaking truth because it differs with a certain doctrine. I don't completely understand open theism. My goal is not to counter it, but if what I believe the scriptures teach us about God counters it, then I am bound by my conscience to type it. Theological argumentation is not the aim of any posts on this blog. The Christian's responsibility to stand up for truth, of who we know God is (from the Bible).

I will not deny any part of God's complete and total control over his creation. I praise God daily that he is Sovereign. What a meaningless terrible life this would be if he were not. In the midst of tragedy, I pray that we would find endless stores of comfort in our God who was not surprised by this. Our God can see much greater than our very limited knowledge can understand.
I appreciate your comment, and am sorry if it seemed like I was making light of this tragedy. This was not at ALL my intention. This is to me the only Biblical end to such an event. And praise God, it also happens to be the only logical source of comfort.

___________________________ said...

Umm.... Ryan, in that first paragraph, about your reasoning, it clearly includes bashing open theism. That is what I have a problem with, because I know that you know that open theists are out there, so you are using a tragedy to bash a theological belief you think to be wrong.

To be honest Ryan, you aren't JUST promoting your doctrine, you are trashing the other doctrine. You could have EASILY written about God's sovereignty without bashing open theism at all and just ignored it. I mean, you could have just make a positive argument for it, and invoked the tale of Job or Joseph to show how God turns suffering into good and has a plan. I don't think that anyone blames you for your beliefs at all, it is just that attacking heretical sects of Christianity has it's own time.

Right, and in your last paragraph, in the 3rd sentence, you still attack the open theists. You know they are here, Chris has even written posts trying to refute them. To so off-handedly trash them is clearly mockery. If open theists are not Christians, then you have a call as a missionary do you not? If you insult them and push them away, then are you really doing Christ's work? I would think not. Look, I am not attacking you because I think you are an especially terrible person, I just think that your post came across as crass and I pointed out the parts that I think are crass. I also think that instead of just praising God for terrible things, it would be better that you look through suffering and how that relates to God. Christianity does not seek to be the religion of masochists after all.

That is only my perspective though, and I only post due to my concern.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, you are right on the mark. God is most glorified and Christ most exalted when we in the midst or our greatest grief can say "God is enough" "He will prevail over death and grief and tragedy" "He will hold me through this" Keep writing and honoring Him.

Anonymous said...

Ryan, thank you for this. It is good to remind ourselves of the God we serve, even when our hearts are broken. The God who loves us entirely despite who we are and Who is involved in every aspects of our lives, despite who we are.

Anonymous said...

Amen, Ryan!

"The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation."
--Ps 33:11

"The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, 'Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand...'"
--Is 14:24