pexels-photo-197893I spent my first twenty-five years clueless about the relevance of God’s sovereignty for my day-to-day life. I didn’t know that all things hold together in Jesus,[1] that all things work together for good for those who love God,[2] and that God is involved in[3] and cares about the details of our lives.[4] I didn’t know that God has even predetermined the times and locations of our lives.[5]

Since God works all things according to his will,[6] is going to accomplish his plan,[7] and rules over all in heaven and on earth,[8] there are no coincidences or random events. But simply knowing these things is not enough if we want to live for Jesus. Discernment of and participation in God’s plans requires a heart that’s yielded to God and trusts in his goodness.[9]

The tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks awakened me to a hard truth: God sometimes allows bad things to happen. As I grappled with questions about God’s role in this event, a friend who was growing weary of my mental gymnastics said, “Of course he let it happen, Karen! Nothing happens that he does not cause or allow!”

Over the next few years, God taught me things I needed to understand to have a more mature trust in him. He taught me about…

  • the fleeting nature of this life,[10]
  • the inconceivable joy we will know as we worship him in his presence in eternity,[11] and
  • the relative blip on the screen that our human sufferings will become as we look fully into the beautiful face of the One who has rescued us from darkness—a darkness[12] that is beyond our imagination and anything in human history.

Sadly, some folks reject God’s sovereignty, choosing instead to trust in a god who possesses limited power over our suffering—though, I would argue, such a god does not deserve our worship. But if we don’t recognize God’s sovereignty, it will be impossible to trust that he’s at work in our circumstances. Being a true follower of Christ requires us to believe that God allows events even as horrific as 9/11 to happen.[13] That’s tough, but it’s truth.

We may have to wait for heaven to reconcile the problem of evil with God’s goodness. Or maybe when the gouges in our trust are healed at the feet of our Savior, our desire for understanding will be replaced by infinite rejoicing in his perfect goodness and truth. In the meantime, we’ll need to possess the kind of faith expressed by missionary John Paton who, after the death of his wife and newborn on a remote island in the South Pacific, wrote above their grave, “Feeling immovably assured that my God and Father was too wise and loving to err in anything that he does or permits, I looked up to the Lord for help, and struggled on in his work.”[14]

In What does it mean to trust in Jesus? Part 3 of 3 ~ Embracing Freedom, I shared one of my favorite stories of God’s work in our circumstances. My husband and I experienced a divine pattern through the Word, prayer, and encouragement from a friend. We can perceive God’s work in patterns of circumstances all at once or over a period of time.  To discern the validity of our perception as guidance from God, our part is to…

  • expectantly keep our hearts tuned to God’s,[15]
  • affirm consistency with God’s character and his Word, through prayer and input from other believers,
  • wait on the Holy Spirit as we pursue discernment, and
  • respond obediently, adjusting and aligning our plans to God’s, and with faith that he will take care of the things we haven’t quite figured out.[16]

When we seek God and obey him, he shows us where he’s working and allows us to participate. Doesn’t knowing about this divine opportunity make you want to sign up right now? I can’t wait to see what amazing thing God will do next that he’ll allow me to be a part of.

Psalm 37:23-24

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.


  • Look back on your life and prayerfully consider the times that God has worked things together for good, possibly in ways that were hard to understand at the time. Thank him for his perfect plans and his faithfulness to you.
  • Think of an area in which you may be resisting God’s direction. Consider Jonah’s experience and pray that God will increase your trust in him and help you to be obedient.


Lord Jesus, please make me alert and attentive to your work in and around me. Heighten my desire and commitment to participate in what you’re doing as a faithful and joyful servant.

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[1] Colossians 1:17

[2] Romans 8:28

[3] John 5:17 (HCSB). The Bible contains many examples in which God works in the circumstances of life. He arranged events so that Jesus would be born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, as prophesied some 700 years prior (Isaiah 7:14, Micah 5:2). The Apostle Paul describes how the circumstance of his being imprisoned made it possible for him to share the Gospel with the entire imperial guard and served to increase his confidence in the Lord (Philippians 1:12-14).

[4] Luke 12:6-7, Matthew 6:26

[5] Acts 17:26

[6] Ephesians 1:11

[7] Isaiah 46:10

[8] Psalm 103:19 (NASB), 1 Chronicles 16:31, 29:11

[9] Psalm 100:5, Psalm 145:9

[10] James 4:14, 2 Corinthians 4:17

[11] Isaiah 51:11

[12] 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9, Revelation 14:11. Revelation 20:10

[13] Genesis 50:20. Christians over the centuries have struggled with the question of why God allows evil. For a succinct summary of some of the issues and suggested answers, go to

[14] John Piper, “You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals! Lessons from the Life of John G. Paton” (lecture, 2000 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, February 8, 2000,

[15] James 4:8, Romans 12:2

[16] Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, “God Speaks, Part 2,” Unit 6 in Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God (Workbook) (Nashville: LifeWay Press, 1990), 97–98.

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