[This is the final blog in a series of six articles on this topic.]
Throughout Parts I – V on this topic, I wrote much about my personal experiences regarding my stroke, hospitalization, and rehab. I don’t want readers to lose sight of the major theme that surrounds this venture, and that is the sovereignty and providence of God in our lives. He is sovereign and providential in everyone’s life. The blessing is that as believers in Christ, we can know that truth whether our lives run smoothly or hit hard turns on our journey.
There is nothing particularly special about the fact that I suffered a stroke. I know many individuals (most of them are Christians and are on my prayer list) who suffered or are suffering illnesses much more devastating than what I experienced. God brought many of them from the threshold of death to full healing from such diseases as cancer, myelofibrosis, diabetes, blood clots and amputations, COVID, heart conditions, and heart attacks. As believers in Christ, they can speak to their experiences and how their faith carried them through tough times, fear, and doubts. God is sovereign over all aspects of our lives. Not a sparrow falls of which he is unaware. I believe the difficult times through which we sojourn cause us to focus more on how God works in our lives.
Arthur W. Pink wrote two powerful works, The Attributes of God and The Sovereignty of God. In the former, Pink dedicates a chapter to the sovereignty of God. He states, The sovereignty of God can be defined as the exercise of His supremacy. . . He is the Most High Lord. . . Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. People will ask, if you believe in the Sovereignty of God, and that He is a loving God, then why did He let you or cause you to have a stroke? There was a time in my Christian life, such experiences and questions would have stumped me. And I’m not saying that I have any simple answers for them now. Not a day goes by that I find myself wishing I didn’t have the residual symptoms of my stroke hanging on. But I do not doubt that God is sovereign over my illness. Accidents don’t happen in God’s wise planning. As Tommy Nelson said in his sermon on the venture, we have to decide whether or not we are going to trust God in our understanding of why things happen to us. Some people recover from devastating diseases, and some don’t. One of the things that my stroke helped me solidify to some degree was the truth of God’s sovereignty and providence. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts at times, grow impatient, and find myself perturbed and angry because of my circumstances. That’s what prayer, confession, and communion with God is all about. I would never attempt to guess the reason why God allowed my life to be hit by a stroke. But one fruit of it is I have come to have a deeper understanding of God’s sovereignty and providence. In his work, The Attributes of God, Pink states further, quoting C. H. Spurgeon, There is no attribute more comforting to His children than God’s sovereignty.
God’s providential care of each of us is the outworking of His sovereignty, His sovereign decrees, established before the foundation of the world. Arthur W. Pink, in his work, The Sovereignty of God says this: The Sovereignty of God. . . means the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. That God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. . . He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. If we reflect on the Book of Job, no one can question God or counsel Him on why He has done what He has done. If I had wallowed in the question of why God allowed me to have a stroke, I would have wallowed in a mire from which I could have never extricated myself. Thinking of my illness as a journey ( a venture) on which God is taking me, led me to rest in God’s hands when I had not the slightest idea about what my future held. I look back on that year that followed my stroke, and I have the comfort that God was with me all the way. One understanding of God’s providence is that it entails the means by which God establishes His sovereignty. As I’ve written on previous blogs, I can’t think of a better plan than the path I followed from Denton Presbyterian Hospital to Fort Worth Harris Hospital to Denton Select to Day Neuro at Medical City. Add to that the return to Fort Worth Harris and the Pecan Creek Rehab facility following my sub-venture with COVID, and not a better and more caring plan could have been written out. Above all, the graciousness of the Terrell family to take me into their home for nearly a year exceeded all expectations. And here is the truth of the matter: I had absolutely no control over any of that pathway that I followed for a year. God’s providential care is the outworking of His sovereignty. The facilities, the doctors, the therapists, and my friends the Terrells were all the means that God used to providentially guide me through my care and rehab work. God is likewise sovereign in His mercy and love.
The venture continues. God is sovereign and therefore providential over every detail of our lives. As finite creatures, it is difficult for us to see the countless ways God works in our lives. John Flavel, in his work, The Mystery of Providence says, the greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. He states that it would not be worthwhile to live in a world devoid of God and providence. As long as our ventures continue in this life, God’s sovereignty and providence never cease in our lives. A good exercise for all of us would entail our looking back on our lives so as to recognize the various ways that God has been providential in our lives and write them down. Flavel challenges believers in Christ to reflect on God’s providence: It is the duty of saints, especially in times of straits, to reflect upon the performances of Providence in all the states and through all the stages of their lives. The experience of my stroke is simply a reminder to me that God is providential. He always was whether or not I recognized it.
A. W. Pink in his work, The Attributes of God, delineates sixteen attributes of God. These various attributes are not discreet entities. God is self-contained, so His various attributes describe His being. When we hear or read explanations of God’s sovereignty, such as He does as He pleases, when He pleases with all the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth, such a description may leave people cold, thinking that God is arbitrary, willy-nilly, or capricious in His dealings with out lives. Nothing is further from the Biblical truth about the Godhead. All of His attributes work together in who God is. As stated above, He is equally sovereign in HIs love and mercy as in his allowing difficult times in our lives. So people may ask, do you see your stroke as an act of God’s love? Every act of God toward His children is an act of love. The love that comes from struggles in life is the recognition that we share various types of sufferings with Christ. Moreover, such struggles are a means to understand more deeply our relationship to God and His providential care in our lives. As Paul stated in his epistle, God comforts us in our suffering so that we can better comfort others in their suffering (2 Corinthians 1:4).
Throughout these six blog articles, I hope the focus on God’s sovereignty and providence stands out more than just my experience with a stroke. I pray that I have encouraged believers to think and focus more on how God works in their lives. If I have accomplished that goal in just a small way, then I’m truly thankful to Him.
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
Flavel, J. (1963). The Mystery of Providence.[Originally published in 1678]. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Books.
Pink, A. W. (1975). The Attributes of God. [Originally published 1930] Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Pink, A. W. (2017). The Sovereignty of God. [Originally published in 1918]. Swengel, PA: A. W. Pink Classic Books.
John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D./ April 14th, 2022