The Comfort of Sovereignty

“Then Job answered the LORD and said: ‘I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.'” Job 41:1-2

“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men,
and His compulsion is our liberation.” C.S. Lewis

As we’ve done most every weekday since August, this morning we will drop off our two foster boys (ages 2 and 1) at Educare, an early-childhood program of Sunbeam Family Services. What will be different today is that we will not pick them up again. Ever. That privilege will transfer and belong to their new foster family, for due to unforeseen circumstances in our lives (as well as in the boys’), our time with these two young ones ends today. Game over. Done, like carrots in a Crock-Pot.

Button Boys 1There will be tears. Megan and I have four biological daughters – 16, 14, 13, and 11 – and we all agreed when we started fostering that if it doesn’t hurt when we give kids back, then we aren’t doing it right. Our girls have changed diapers, given baths, and fixed 2 a.m. bottles; they have rocked (and rolled), fed and hosed down (for they go together), and buckled and unbuckled (curse you, car seats). They have chosen to share rooms so the boys could each have his own. They have kissed and cuddled and kept (with occasional help from the accountability of our family) weariness from bitterly creeping into their hearts, giving their mother and me an early and beautiful glimpse of what we imagine grand-parenting might one day be like.

What will hurt the most today will be the boys not understanding why we will be crying. Regardless of how we try to explain that we are, most likely, never going to see them again this side of Heaven, the boys (as with any their age) cannot comprehend such finality, particularly after bonding with and attaching to our family as they have over the past nine months. I’ve been the first male either has lived with for more than two nights at a time, and we’ve been the younger one’s family for half of his time on the planet. How do a two- and a one-year-old process the kind of disappearing act we’re about to perform?

Boys at EasterIt won’t make sense to them and it doesn’t make sense to us, at least not if we try to tell the story within our time frame and from our point of view. What we were hoping for after I lost my job in January (and even since I found one in April) was just one bright spot in our final six months in Oklahoma. Sadly, through no fault of ours (and certainly none of the boys’), they are not going to have much permanent resolution anytime soon (if at all), and as with most of the 14 kids we’ve fostered over the past two-and-a-half years, we will never know where they end up or how they’re doing when they end up there.

We’re grateful to our agency, Angels Foster Family Network OKC, for finding a family willing to take the two together, particularly when there are still over 12,000 kids in this state on the OKDHS rolls in need of foster care or adoption. We hope these two we’ve cared for will be looked after as their lives continue to unfold, but there are no words to adequately verbalize our family’s sense of guilt in leaving them for someone else to raise – as if it were their fault they were conceived and born, or our fault we weren’t able to stay and help them grow up.

Bozeman GirlsWe are moving to Montana; the boys are moving to Moore. None of us would have anticipated any of these changes six months ago, but Job reminds us that God has his purposes and they will not be thwarted. I recall my friend and fellow City Pres member, Brandon Dutcher, saying to me in January, “These are the times it’s good to be a Calvinist.” Indeed (though it’s interesting that John Calvin’s commentaries do not comment on the book of Job; so much for Presbyterian proof-texting).

What my Reformed brother meant was that Calvin’s high view of sovereignty is as much about comfort as doctrine in the midst of all that doesn’t make sense. Yes, the Scriptures clearly teach that God is sovereign and independent (Daniel 4:35); that God is immutable and eternal (Psalm 102:26-27); that God is omniscient and all-knowing (Hebrews 4:13); that God is indeed all this and more,* regardless of whether or not we as his created humanity agree that He can be, should be, or is. But with these points of doctrine come comfort that God is personal in his sovereignty and independence, personal in his immutability and eternality, and personal in his omniscience and all-knowing. Like Job, who received no actual answers from God except the announcement of His presence (see Job 38-42), when it comes to our future, we are left to either embrace the person of God or…what? Random chance? Cruel karma? Blind luck? No thanks.

Because God is good and gracious, we rest in His love. God’s character is such that it brings people to praise, for His disposition is to show favor to the undeserving. Throughout Scripture, God is good and gracious to those who do not merit His goodness, nor deserve His grace.

JaydnaBecause God is good and upholds the goodness of His creation, even sparrows are upheld, and His people are valued more than sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31). Even those who are unregenerate receive the good benefits of God as they live in His good kingdom. The Psalmist records in Psalm 145:8-9 that, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.” We see God’s graciousness not only in creation, but also in His sustaining of that creation. We see the gracious ways that He provides for all his creatures and how He causes the rain to fall both upon the righteous and the unrighteousness. He pours blessings on all human beings, even those who reject His Son.

Most of all, we see His unmerited grace in his acts of redemption on behalf of His chosen people. As the Apostle Paul points out in Romans 5:6-8, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Thus, we trust in God, knowing that in His goodness and graciousness, He will provide all we need, when we need it. We accept His discipline because we trust He will always do what is best for us. We pursue patience and faithfulness in trials because we know that, “All things work together for the good for those who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We stand steadfast in knowing that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ because we are in intimate relationship with the one true God who is eager to show mercy and grace to His people. We come confidently before His throne making our petitions because, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

And we entrust two little boys we hope to see again one day – if not in this world, then in the next.

*For a more developed and complete treatment of God’s attributes, see Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, vol 2: God and Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 148-255.

Craig is Head of School at The Academy of Classical Christian Studies in Oklahoma City, where he lives with Megan, their four daughters, and anyone else who happens to call their house "home" at the time. He blogs at www.seconddrafts.com.

 

Craig and his family are moving to Bozeman, MT, this summer where he will be the new Headmaster of Petra Academy, a classical Christian school in the heart of the Gallatin Valley. They plan to join Trinity Presbyterian Church there.

Stop talking about orphans and start caring for them! Attend the Oklahoma Foster Care Forum this Saturday, hosted at City Presbyterian Church (829 NW 13th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73106), to learn more about providing respite, foster, or adoptive care. The need has never been greater.