Seeing God as Good in Suffering? – Jamie Freeman

I wasn’t raised under theology that would be labeled “reformed”.  I came to it the way most reformed believers do, kicking and screaming at the “unfairness” of it all until divine providence showed me the beauty contained therein. But, it wasn’t long after entering that garden of rest found in God’s sovereignty that the forbidden tree was cast before me; pride! How easy it is, in our humanity, to begin to take ownership of the fact that now we believe the “hard truths.” We’re not some cereal bowl Christian, full of nuts and flakes. We ascribe to deep theology!

Yet, as we revel in our self-exalting pride, we forget that the true implications of what we profess to believe demands that we have no ability to take ownership even to the ascribing of the truth. If our hearts have laid hold of biblical truth, surely grace and grace alone has caused it.

Therefore, it has been in times of self-examination that the Spirit of God has required that I put my “Calvinist Card” away and question the extent to which I truly embrace God’s electing prerogative. It’s one thing to believe God elects who gets saved; but what about who gets cancer? Are we as content with God if He not only elects some for life, but also elects some for down-syndrome?

It’s for this reason that I’ve had to spend much time meditating on Matthew 15:21-28. Here we meet a Canaanite woman in great need of a touch from the Savior. Her daughter is severely oppressed by a demon and in need of deliverance. Surely, Jesus would be quick to save, right? After all, isn’t Jesus always “nice”? Yet, we find Jesus’ response very shocking. He says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Just so it is known, that response wouldn’t fly in our racially and politically correct society. Still, when further pressed on the issue, Jesus only seemingly adds insult to injury when He says, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Wow! A mother comes to Jesus needing deliverance for her demonic daughter and in response Jesus highlights His electing prerogative towards Israel. It could almost seem as if Jesus is saying to her, “Sorry, I’ve never seen you at the synagogue before. Maybe if you had a name like Lewin or Katz– you know, a little Abraham in your blood-line.” Instead, she’s a Gentile dog! She’s faced with the electing prerogative of God and it doesn’t seem to benefit her at all. Yet, notice her response. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” We should pause here for a moment. Firstly, when was the last time you presented the truth of election to someone and their first response was affirmative agreement, “Yes!”? Not only does she respond affirmatively, she takes on the label of “dog”.  How easy it can be to believe election when it seems to favor you, but look at this gentile woman who accepts God’s election even when it doesn’t seem personally beneficial. Here is the true test.

Just as God has prerogative to elect as He wills in matter of salvation, the extent to which we meet suffering and the measure to which that suffering manifests in our lives is also all subjected to the electing prerogative of God. It is here that those who proudly wear the name tag “reformed” must stop and truly question the extent to which their lives rest on the sovereign election of God. The true test is this: when met by suffering and adversity, is our heart able to quietly, patiently rest in faith that nothing has come upon us except that which a sovereign God has chosen to thus ordain for us? If our heart meets suffering and hardship with anxiety and anxiousness, do we really have the right to call ourselves “sovereign grace” people? Thus, it’s not what a person does with salvation alone that shows the extent to which they’ve placed their hope in God’s sovereignty, but what they do with the most personal and severe of their sufferings.

Therefore, we need to note the result that comes to the Gentile woman after she is shown to have fully embraced the full extent of God’s electing prerogative. “Then Jesus answered her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” It’s after she sees God’s election and embraces it- all of it- that Jesus opens to her the windows of blessing and meets the need for which she came. She proves to be yet another Gentile grafted into the promise and can truly wear the name “reformed”. Can you?

This is a guest post by Jamie Freeman, born with cerebral palsy and not expected to walk or talk. However, God had a wonderful plan for Jamie’s life and used his trials with cerebral palsy to make him into a trophy of grace. He is the author of Though He Slay Me: Seeing God as Good in Suffering recently published by Christian Focus Publications.

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