I was seven when I remember my earliest disenchantment with the idea that everything would work out how it was supposed to. Seven was a big year for me. I auditioned twice for musicals during that year and didn’t quite make the cut either time. I tirelessly rehearsed my solos for the lead role of Mama Bear in the first grade play and was consequently distraught to learn that Rachel D. had gotten the part in my stead. I still like to think it was a close call. When I was told, “everything was going to work out just how it was supposed to” I took that to mean that either Rachel would flee the country before the show’s premier, or I would get to star in an equally epic part. When neither of these came to pass, and I stood and sang four lines in the rejects choir, I felt deceived. “What about all this ‘working out’ business?” it seemed very apparent that things were indeed not working out at all. And then it hit me—perhaps I was being summoned to a higher calling, something more reputable, something more seasonal, something classic. Thus, I took it upon myself to audition for the Nutcracker for the role of Cast Rat. Though I would be one of many Rats, which was an obvious downgrade from Mama Bear, this classic play made my elementary school’s bear musical look like cheap noise. This, surely, was God closing the Mama Bear door and opening the Cast Rat window.
I was confident that this was how things would work out. Since first graders were lumped into the shuffle with the amateur kindergarteners, and since there were no lines, much less speaking parts, and minimal dancing involved, I believed myself to be a shoo-in for this stock varmint role. So naturally, upon receiving my rejection letter in the mail, I was genuinely offended. To be rejected as the lead maternal bear was one thing, but to be deemed unfit for a lowly stock rat was more than my formidable self-esteem could handle. Much to my dismay I found that my mother also offered me the same familiar, shoddy consolation I had heard before, that everything would work out how it was supposed to.
Thus I found the phrase “everything works out how it’s supposed to” to be synonymous with not getting what I wanted; and occasionally associated with public humiliation. This became one of many euphemisms that I’ve learned to translate over the years. We have phrases like this, don’t we? They’re the ones we keep in our deck and play as a sort of last ditch, blanket consolation—to cover our bases and provide a sort of insurance, just in case things don’t shake out quite how we would like them to.
This “working out how it’s supposed to” business, when translated into Christian jargon, sounds a little something like, “God’s got a plan” or “Let go and let God”. The gist is that God is ultimately in control and things will “work out” as he so chooses. Christians believe God to be all-powerful, all knowing, and ever-present, and we’ve adopted the term ‘sovereign’ to describe this encapsulating tri-fecta. So just as we say “God’s got a plan” so too we say, “God is sovereign”.
I find this very peculiar. Not so much that we acknowledge God’s absolute rule and reign regularly, I am very much so about that life, but rather how and when we acknowledge it.
It seems that we play the “God is sovereign” card in the same way we play the “everything will work out how it’s supposed to”. It feels vague and consolatory, like a last resort.
I think that the God’s sovereignty is anything but a comforting consolation. It is God– the one who is not bound by time or space, the one who spoke forth a vast something out of a vast nothing, and in doing so, the one who engineered the minutia that comprise the cosmos, the genetic composition of mankind, and intricate phenomena like photosynthesis and tectonic plate shifts, the divine author himself— who is in control. Dare I say that this God reigning and ruling is the most comforting, invigorating, and exhilarating news any of us could ever ingest?
Who better to hold the future than the one who designed it? Who better guide our steps than the one who gave us legs to walk? Who better to give and to withhold than he who knows us better than we know ourselves?
We foolishly think that we could actually be vying contestants. See, we know all too well the sting of disappointment. That pang of suffering is a little too familiar, and it feels exhausting and overwhelming to think that our good God would allow these things to happen on his sovereign clock. We are too invested in our personal agendas to allow ourselves to have unbridled excitement that God is sovereign. We would rather further our own sovereignty as it pertains to our circumstances, lest we taste disappointment, grief, suffering, or anguish yet again.
But God’s sovereignty, like his goodness, does not terminate on our circumstances. Therefore let us not acknowledge it as a consolatory positive spin on an inevitably hopeless outcome, but rather let us exclaim it with confident hope that his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and it is the King of glory who has written our days in his book and guides our steps as we watch the story unfold one page at a time. Praise the Lord that he is sovereign!
“How happy are those who can resign all to him see his hand in every dispensation, and believe that he chooses better for them than they could possibly choose for ourselves.” John Newton