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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Parnell

For Comfort, Not Angst: Understanding God’s Sovereignty (Isaiah 40:28-29)

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. —Isaiah 40:28-29

This section of the book of Isaiah is filled with amazing language about the supremacy of God, interwoven with the repeated exhortation for us to “fear not” (Isaiah 40:9; 41:10, 13-14; 43:1, 5; 51:12-16; 54:4, 14). God’s sovereignty is a truth meant to comfort his people, not put them in angst. And yet we know it doesn’t happen overnight.

In Desiring God, John Piper writes: “Many of us have gone through a period of deep struggle with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. If we take the doctrines into our hearts where they belong, they can cause upheavals of emotion and sleepless nights” (38).

Piper then goes on to quote Jonathan Edwards’s recount of his own struggle:

From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty…It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God.

But never could I give an account, how, or by what means, I was thus convinced, not in the least imagining at the time, nor a long time after, that there was any extraordinary influence of God’s Spirit in it; but only that now I saw further, and my reason apprehended the justice and reasonableness of it. However, my mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections.

And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, in respect to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, from that day to this; so that I scarce ever have found so much as the rising of an objection against it, in the most absolute sense…I have often since had not only a conviction but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so (quoted from “Personal Narrative,” in Jonathan Edwards: Representative Selections, 58–59).

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