Sovereign and Sorrowing
By Holli Worthington
Northpoint Women’s Ministries
Most of us do not know the unique pain and sorrow that those who recently lost their sons are going through. But we do know they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, they are our church family, they are our dear friends, and we grieve with them.
In times like these, we look to God, and we remind ourselves that despite the chaos and tragedy that swirls around us, despite all outward appearances, God is in control. A story has been told somewhere about a woman sitting in a hospital after the death of her child. A pastor sat down beside her and told her that God had nothing to do with this tragedy. She responded, “Don’t you dare take away the only comfort I have.” God’s sovereignty is a comfort to us. We don’t know what God is doing, but we do know that he works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). We know that all things are from him, through him, and to him (Romans 11:36). We know that our times are in his hands and that he numbers our days (Psalm 31:15, 139:16, Job 14:5). We know that whatever our good Father, who is perfectly wise, lavishly loving, and completely powerful, allows to come into our lives, he has a redemptive purpose for.
As we trust that God is seated on his throne and orchestrating his plan, I wonder, though, if we also tend to see him as far away and separated from our grief and sorrow. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the exact image of God’s nature—so when we see Jesus, we see God. John 11, through a scene in Jesus’ life, shows us a picture of our God who is sovereign in our tragedies but also sorrowing with us.
Jesus’ dear friends were in a crisis. Lazarus was very ill, and his sisters, Mary and Martha, were very worried. So they sent word to Jesus. John 11:5-6 says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” He loved them—so he stayed away. … Wait, what? That doesn’t seem right to us. This did not make sense to Mary and Martha either. It did not feel loving, and they did not understand at this point. Especially when their beloved brother died. But Jesus had already told his disciples that this illness was for the glory of God and that he would be glorified through it. There was a purpose to this suffering. This was God’s sovereignty on display.
When Jesus did arrive, in his perfect timing (which did not seem perfect to everyone else), the sisters met him and expressed their pain and disappointment. John tells us that Jesus was deeply moved; he asked where they had laid Lazarus, and the sisters said, “Come and see, Lord.” We can invite Jesus to enter our pain and sorrow. He does not stand far off and unmoved, but comes willingly, moved by our pain. So moved, that the next verse tells us, he wept. He wept over the loss of his beloved friend. He wept over the pain of the sisters. He wept over the devastation of death. Even though he could have prevented it. Even though it would bring him glory. Even though death would not have the last word. Here, we see God’s sorrow on display.
So, dear church family, as we grieve for our friends’ profound loss, know that God’s sovereignty does not make him distant and unmoved by the pain of his children. He is sovereign and sorrowing. He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Jesus, our Savior is proof.