It was quite an unusual Sunday. Just before the start of our 9 O’Clock Church a member of our congregation drove into the car park as usual, but then hit the wrong pedal, ran over a couple of barriers, and ran through the side of the church building. I was on the inside and standing at the end of the pew that the car ran into, subsequently I and another church member are nursing some bruises, but no one else was injured.
In the aftermath it was wonderful to see the church (i.e. the people, not the building) pull together; serving, caring, supporting and praying for one another, and quickly adapting to the new situation as the gathering then carried on in the hall. That same unity and commitment will be needed as we will now need to meet at an alternate venue until everything is fixed up.
This was not at all what I expected as I woke up and got ready on Sunday morning. Since the event I’ve had a bit of time feeling sorry for myself, and it has also caused me to reflect on the nature of God’s sovereignty in all of this.
Perhaps it was the pain speaking, but as I first heard comments like ‘Thank God no one was killed’ or ‘God was looking after you today’, the cynic within me began to query such statements and I wanted to reply with something like ‘Well if God was looking after us, then why didn’t he stop the car from hitting the wall in the first place?’ Surely it would have been better for everyone if it was just a normal Sunday morning.
So how are we to make sense of God’s sovereignty in this event?
Recently I listened to three talks by the late Jerry Bridges on the Sovereignty, Love, and Wisdom of God. Firstly, Bridges asserts the Bible’s teaching that God is absolutely sovereign and in control of all events in our world, to rephrase Matthew 10:29 ‘not a car crashes into a building apart from the will of the Father’. Further to that Bridges then shows that the cross of Christ stands as the assurance of God’s unwavering love toward us, and the promise of Jesus is that not one of us is forgotten before our Father (Luke 12:7). The third aspect then is the Wisdom of God, and the Bible clearly teaches that what I think would be wise in a particular situation will often be quite different to God’s wisdom. His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and as Paul exclaims ‘How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!’ (Romans 11:33).
This gives us some useful categories to make sense of the unusual Sunday morning. The event should cause me to question neither the sovereignty of God nor the love of God; instead I recognise that it is the wisdom of God where my issue lies. And yet when phrased so starkly I must quickly repent, for who am I to question God’s wisdom. Bridges makes use of the well-used illustration that what we often see in life is like the back of a tapestry, it looks like a tangled mess and we can make no sense of it, but God sees the other side, his beautiful design where all things work together for his glory and for the good of those who love him.
So how are we to respond to an unusual Sunday morning?
Well, let us say amen to those initial comments from the saints; thank God that it was not worse, praise him for his love and care, and let us accept that he knows best, and so gladly trust him in any and every circumstance.