We’ve been spending some time in Sunday School talking about the issue of God’s sovereignty. Coming to the realization that nothing takes place outside of God’s sovereign will inevitably bring us to question why certain bad things happen to us and to those we love. Enduring trials in our lives is difficult enough, but it can be even more difficult to understand the reason for those trials.
If God loves me and He is in absolute control of all things, why does pain, heartbreak, and tragedy befall me? How can I trust Him in the midst of these things? How can I know that God loves me when He allows such trials to happen to me?
These are the questions addressed by Jerry Bridges in his book, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts. Bridges is no stranger to grief. When he was fourteen years old, his mother died suddenly. He was in the next room and rushed in just in time to see her last gasp for air. His brother was away at school and his dad was too grief stricken to help him make sense of it all. He felt completely alone in that adversity. In 1988, Jerry’s first wife, Eleanor, died of non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma, only three weeks after their 25th wedding anniversary.
So Bridges does not write from a theoretical point of view. In an effort to strengthen his own trust in God, he began a broad Bible study on the issue of God’s sovereignty over the lives of His people. The study helped him immensely and eventually moved him to write Trusting God.
Bridges has this to say in book’s preface: “This book, then, was born out of the results of addressing needs in my own life, and realizing that many other believers have similar questions and doubts. It is written from the perspective of a brother and companion to all those who are tempted at times to ask, ‘Can I really trust God.?’
“The purpose of this book is twofold: First, I desire to glorify God by acknowledging His sovereignty and His goodness. Second, I desire to encourage God’s people by demonstrating from Scripture that God is in control of their lives, that He does indeed love them, and that He works out all the circumstances of their lives for their ultimate good.”
Having read the book myself, I can heartily say that Jerry Bridges succeeds wonderfully in accomplishing those two purposes. The book is biblical, God-honoring, and encouraging.
The first two chapters deal with the questions, “can you trust God?” and “Is God in control?” These chapters are not cold theology, but purely pastoral and absolutely honest in recognizing the difficulties that these questions pose. The rest of the first half of the book is dedicated to establishing from Scripture that God is sovereign over all things, including individual lives, nations, and nature. This section is rounded out with a very helpful discussion of how we are to understand the relationship between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.
The second half of the book wrestles with the heart struggles that can come from recognizing the fact that God is in control. I believe this part of the book will be particularly helpful for those who have accepted the doctrine of God’s sovereignty long ago, but who have since been struggling with how to see God as a loving God in light of it. Bridges has made sense of this for me, and I know that his insight could be a comfort to you as well.
I have read a number of books on the subject of God’s sovereignty and human suffering, but none that goes as far as this one does in addressing the hard questions that seem to come so naturally in times of trials. God is sovereign. God is wise. God is loving. God can be trusted. If you or someone you know are enduring a difficult time right now, or if you are simply wrestling with the issue of God’s sovereignty, this book would be my first recommendation.