We all struggle with a fundamental question: Why do things happen as they do? I believe that there is a sovereign deity with a plan for all people throughout all time. This implies that God makes choices and events unfold accordingly.
Were God the only one making choices, I do not believe real relationship could exist between God and humans. I cannot fathom a meaningful relationship with something that never does anything that I have not programmed it to do. I may talk about how angry I am with my computer. But what I am really saying is that it doesn’t always do what I planned for it to do. In that sense it takes on a bit of a personality of its own. It can be that way for us with inanimate objects because we are very limited. Even very simple objects can often thwart our purposes. I have cursed a rock for positioning itself where my toe would be stubbed upon it.
However, when we describe God as sovereign, we are perforce saying that his plans are never thwarted. We struggle to understand how it is that humans are able to make choices and yet never thwart God’s plans.
One approach to this thorny subject is to simply declare that we cannot make choices without God’s intervention into the process. Yet, in taking this approach, we actually give up the idea that we can make choices. Some are willing to steadfastly maintain that this is exactly true. We have only the illusion of free will. God is always in the driver’s seat of our conscience. God chooses those who will choose him and he chooses those who will reject him.
I see two large problems with that. First, how can it be that we are in relationship with someone, when that someone makes all the choices? Imagine a marriage where one partner made all the choices and directed all the activities of the married couple. It is a very depressing thought. Yet, we are the bride of Christ. Our marriage is portrayed in the bible as a joyous union. And even while we are still in this sin cursed world, we are given some insight into what it is to be in loving relationships.
Secondly, why would God’s inspired word frequently insist that we choose? Choose whom you will serve. Choose life. Choose understanding. Choose the right.
These are very direct commands from God. He also requires faith of us. Faith is defined as trusting, believing, and acting on that which we believe.
God and humans make choices. I also believe that spirits referred to as angels and demons also make choices, but I will not insist upon that for now.
Sometimes we choose to serve things other than God. We choose death. We choose ignorance. We choose evil. We place our trust improperly. We fail to trust. We do not act on what we believe. Pain, suffering, and even eternal separation from God may result. And yet, God is sovereign. His purposes are made manifest. He is God and we are not.
No choice of ours will thwart his purposes. This is a very great mystery. I do not presume that I understand how it can be so. But it is so.