31 Dec 2021
Today is the last day of 2021. It has been a year which some would describe as a year gripped by negative events and blind forces (global viral pandemic, calamities from climate changes, economic hardships, suffering, death, loss of loved ones…) Tomorrow is the first day of 2022. Looking back at 2021, for believers, we wonder about God’s involvement in all these events and happenings.
We must realize that when a person takes action, or an event is triggered by natural causes, or Satan shows his hand – yet God overrules. This is in fact the message seen in the book of Esther, where the name of God appears nowhere. When things are done that are against God’s will or command, yet they fulfill His will of events (Epesians 11). When humans mean what they do for evil – yet God who overrules uses their actions for good (Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:23). Note that when humans sin, God is not the author of sin (James 1:13-17); in fact God is its judge.
Interestingly, God’s concurrent involvement in all that occurs in His world by making His will come to pass is done without violating the nature of things, the ongoing casual processes, or human free agency – this is indeed a mystery, but the Bible constantly testifies to this. As we look at all the evils that infect God’s world (moral and spiritual; physical disorders and disruptions of a spoiled cosmos and fallen world; the current of negative events and calamities today), we can come to a firm conclusion as we evaluate what is revealed to us in Scripture:
God permits evil; He punishes evil with evil; He brings good out of evil; He uses evil to test and discipline those He loves; and one day He will redeem His people from the power and presence of evil altogether.
But we may never discern this ‘hidden work of God’ in the midst of our suffering and pain; we may not understand the mystery of God’s sovereignty and providence while we confront the seemingly prosperous evil individuals and their schemings and pride; Christian theology recognizes that it is utterly impossible to represent or describe God adequately using human language – hence the term ‘mystery’ is used to refer to the vastness of God and the ways and sovereignty of God. A mystery is not something that is contrary to reason but something that exceeds reason’s capacity to discern and describe.To speak of some aspect of the natural world or of God as a mystery is not to try and shut down the human reflective process but to stimulate it – by opening the mind to an intellectual vision that is simply too deep and broad to be fully apprehended by our limited human capacity to see. Simply stated: we are finite – God is infinite! God simply overwhelms our mental capacities – our words are just not good enough to cope with the conceptual majesty of God so splendidly expressed in the notion of glory.
Something of God can be grasped, however inadequately, by the human mind and this leads to theology. However, much of God still remains beyond the human capacity to understand – and this leads to worship, praise and adoration. We live in a world in which we can only see things in part; recognise the limits of our situation. Yet there is hope: the light shines in the darkness, which cannot overwhelm it. The rich vision of reality that stands at the heart of our Christian faith both captures our imagination and nourishes our mind. The gospel allows us to make sense of our world and inhabit it meaningfully, while at the same time giving us a vision of hope for the greater reality which we believe awaits us in the New heaven and earth. As we look back at 2021 and look forward to 2022, focus on the Christian hope and rest in the sovereignty, overruling, and providence of God.