The last breath was the hardest.
We stood by his hospital bed singing hymns, crying, holding his hand, stroking his bandaged forehead.
Watching my inlaws and husband say goodbye to one who was so strong, vibrant, full of life, and gut-wrenchingly funny only a few short hours before still haunts me.
He was only 18.
They moved us into a small room down the hall so we could make phone calls and plans. His other siblings hadn’t made it on time and we were agonizing over having to call and tell them.
It was there in this stark, cold room with fluorescent lights that my mother-in-law dropped to her knees with hands raised to the air. Tears streamed down her face as she began to praise God for the time she’d had with her son, for the gift Nate was to them, and for His continued faithfulness.
The social worker pulled me out into the hall.
She described the stages of grief and told me my sweet and spunky mother-in-law was delusional, but not to be alarmed. This was normal, to be expected, and would pass.
But she wasn’t, and it didn’t.
Though she wailed in desperation and wept in sadness for the days, weeks, and months that followed, Bernadette never stopped trusting and praising.
Not in the 19 years since Nate’s passing. Not after the death of her father that same winter. Not after her own debilitating and life-changing battle with cancer, and not after the tragic deaths of many of her closest friends.
Because she believes with every ounce of her slender five foot frame that God is sovereign. Always. Even when we don’t particularly like what’s happening.
The One Who Gets to Decide
I find great comfort studying scripture that points to God’s sovereign character, and the book of Daniel is one of my favorites. I often stop to declare the first two verses in moments of adversity or calamity. They sound somber at first glance, but tell of God’s great power and ultimate dominion.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.”
The city was in ruins. The temple destroyed. Sacred items were brought into Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. People were slaughtered and survivors led into captivity.
It was utter devastation.
Why would a good God allow this? For His beloved Judah to be ravaged and captured by Babylon? And why does this particular passage mean so much to me?
My deep appreciation of this scripture goes back to Israel’s exodus from Egypt.
The Lord saved the Israelites from captivity and gave them His commandments before they entered the Promised Land. The laws were accompanied by a stringent warning. If Israel obeyed, they would find blessing. If they disobeyed, calamity:
“The LORD will bring you and your king whom you set over you to a nation that neither you nor your fathers have known.” Deuteronomy 28:36
But Israel did not heed God’s warning. Instead of seeking the will of God and following His commandments, ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (Judges 21:25). Their sin had natural and corruptive consequences, but they blamed their distress on the lack of a king and pleaded that God give them one like the other nations had. It didn’t help. They put their faith in other gods and worshipped idols. God sent prophets to warn Israel of His impending wrath, but most did not repent and return to Him.
So God did what He had said He would do years before in Deuteronomy. As warned, He willingly gave them over to a king and nation they had never known and made it clear that the captivity would last 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10).
Daniel remained in Babylon for the entire captivity. There were moments of intense fear, longing for home, and heartfelt prayers for the redemption of his fellow Hebrews. His life was in turmoil, but he never stopped believing, trusting, and living faithfully.
Though their circumstances were vastly different, Daniel and my mother-in-law have this in common: Resolve that God is always in control. They understand that sometimes God purposes things to happen (Daniel 9:14), and sometimes He allows them for reasons we can’t comprehend or reconcile. We don’t always get to know which is which, but if we believe God is God and claim Him as LORD, we must also acknowledge Him as ruler – The One who gets to decide.
The Sovereignty of God
God as sovereign means He alone is the source of all power and existence. The Bible tells us that the entire universe is under God’s influence and authority. Consider just a few of these assertions about Him:
God is Infinite
“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17
“Before the mountains were born or You brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Psalm 90:2
“Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” Revelation 21:6
God Knows All Things
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways.” Romans 11:33
“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:5
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:13
God Can Do All Things and Accomplish All Things – Nothing is Impossible for Him
“Ah Lord God! Behold,You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You.” Jeremiah 32:17
“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27
“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:1
God’s Purpose Prevails
“I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2
“The LORD does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and in their depths.” Psalm 135:6
“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Psalm 33:10-11.
“The Lord works out everything to its proper end – even the wicked for a day of disaster.” Proverbs 16:4
God Rules Over All
“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 103:19
“The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.” Psalm 29:10
“The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will.” Daniel 4:17
What We Get to Decide
I’ve cried out to God many times pleading with Him to change seeming injustices, take pain away and protect the ones I love. I’ve wondered at His intention and will when walking through tragedy and adversity while not understanding (or liking) it. I read the news and shake my head at the corruption and sadness because I simply can’t comprehend the sin and oppression.
But we’re invited to bring our requests and supplication (Philippians 4:6) before our sovereign God, and are assured that He is faithful to listen and hear our heart (1 John 5:14, 1 Peter 3:12, Romans 8:26). Scripture also tells us that God is relentless in His love for us:
“The lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children.” Psalm 103:17
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” Lamentations 3:23
So while He gets to decide what’s best for His Kingdom and His children, I get to decide how I’ll respond – In submission to His authority, asking the tough stuff, and clinging to His love. I’m going to believe that He’s good and really will work everything out for those who love Him and care called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) – Even if I don’t understand, and even if I don’t like it.
Honestly, my deepest human desire and plea is that I’ll never have to experience the loss and tragedy my precious mother-in-law or the prophet Daniel did, and that those I love won’t either. I can’t begin to imagine the earthly pain and have tears streaming down my cheeks just thinking about it. I don’t know how I would respond, but my prayer is that the truth of the Word and my love for our Savior would compel me to praise Him for His sovereignty just like Bernadette and Daniel did – Knees to the earth, hands lifted high.
About the Author: Lisa DaSilva is a wife, mom of two teenagers, and advocate for women to love God with their heart, soul and mind as they engage in responsible study of His Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches the Bible to anyone who will read or listen.
Lisa is a teacher by trade and passion, voice for the marginalized, recovering striver, and lover of simplicity, authenticity, and all things pretty. She enjoys thrift store shopping and often has to convince people she’s an introvert. Just a loud one.
Loving Jesus and making Him known really is her everything.
Beverly Freele says
Thankyou for your insight and timely message. Our church recently lost a young man(36) quite suddenly and it’s been so heart breaking. Such a good reminder from God’s word?
Arise Ministries Collective Team says
I’m so sorry to hear this, Bev, and am blessed to hear that God’s Word and Bernadette’s story were an encouragement to you. Thank you for sharing.