Dr. Taylor received a letter from Patty Duke, a member of First Baptist Carrollton. She was responding to him regarding his sermon on May 26, “When You Are Overwhelmed with Questions as to Why.” Having walked through suffering of her own, Patty shared her perspective on how to cope with tragedy and the questions that come through suffering. One of the goals of Imagine is to grow in our personal walk with the Lord as well as help people who are in crisis. Her story speaks to both of those goals. It is our prayer you will be encouraged by her thought-provoking letter and that, in some way, her experience in pain might help you in your life.
Dearest Pastor Brent,
You had a wonderful sermon today and I want to commend you on speaking on a complicated and difficult subject which you handled well. Suffering is complicated and on this side of eternity we may not get many answers to our suffering. One thing you did say that struck me was something along the lines of, “Faith in God’s sovereignty is not much, but is better than no faith at all.” I am paraphrasing, I think.
May I tell you my story?
My daughter and husband were killed in 1996 in a car accident which I believe you know about. I was a Christian, as was Katie, my daughter. We belonged to a loving church of people who were helpful. I continued to go to church and by all outward appearances was doing well. But on the inside I was rebelling and very angry with God. Why Katie? Why me?
A friend of mine named Cindy, a lovely Christian, came to me one day to visit. She had lost a 5-year-old boy in an accidental rifle shooting. Her husband had let the gun fall loaded with the safety off. If he had not been a Christian, he said he would have turned the gun on himself. This is what she said to me: “Patty, you will not understand this for a long time. But one day you will know that God is sovereign, and because He is sovereign, you will be able to lay your head down on your pillow at night and sleep in peace once more.” She was right. I had no idea what she meant for over ten years.
Many pastors and church members tried to comfort me with things along the lines of your first point – that we live in a fallen world and because of that bad things happen. Can I just tell you that when you have suffered great loss, that is just the most ridiculous thing anyone can say or come up with. We all know, even pagans know, that we live in a fallen world. That answers nothing, because deep down we know that has nothing to do with what has come against us. Only people who have not yet suffered great loss come up with that one. I know because before Katie and Richard died, that’s what I thought, too.
I have studied the book of Job more than ten times in the last seventeen years and finally, through the Holy Spirit, study, and prayer, have I made progress in faith. First, deep down we know that even in a fallen world, God is in control. If we doubt that, then we can become fearful, not knowing what will come for us or against us, but where is God when it comes against us? So many people do what Satan hoped Job would do, that is, curse God in his heart. So we rail and curse God. Job never doubted that the massive losses he experienced were from God, as he said to his wife, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” And indeed they were from God. As you remember, God brought Job up to Satan, not the other way around. And Job says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.” God never corrects this impression, and in fact says in chapter 42 that only Job has spoken the truth about Him.
I have also never found any passages in the Bible where it talks about things happening outside of God’s control and sovereignty. In the Bible He is in every storm, every famine, every plague, every raindrop, and every grain of sand. It all belongs to Him.
So where was God when the car accident happened? The answer is that He was right there. I don’t know why Laura was saved and four people died immediately, including Katie and Richard. But what I want to be like is Joseph who said to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” And that is the key to it all, Brent. The only thing missing from your sermon is the fact that only our God can change evil into good. The Father planned the crucifixion from the foundations of the earth. The greatest evil perpetuated ever was putting the Son of God to death on the cross. And Satan was the agent of that I am sure. But from that comes the greatest good in the history of the world. And God planned it!
So, back to my point about sovereignty. Besides Jesus of course, I would have to say that Job is the greatest believer in all the Bible, well maybe Joseph, too. Because he understood the fact that God is in control and He is sovereign over all events. That is actually the greatest faith of all – to know like you know like you know that God is in control of the accident that takes your precious daughter and you finally, after years of searching, acknowledge this, and also acknowledge that only the God Who loves us immensely will bring good from it. It is knowing that it comes from His hand and then saying in our blackest moments, “I trust you God,” and let Him comfort you. That in my opinion is faith in God’s sovereignty and that is why I think it is the greatest faith of all. It was the faith of Abraham with Isaac, and with Joseph and Job with their trials – that God is indeed sovereign. And now I can put my head on my pillow at night and know that He is sovereign, He is love, and He gives me peace. And like Job (who suffered more than me, of course) who was not ever given the explanation of the first two chapters in the book of Job, and in the end, had to continue walking by faith and not by sight, I want to walk by that same faith because God will make it all good on the other side of eternity. Because He is in it ALL!! The good and the bad.
With loving regards,