My suffering had meaning. All of it. I was living God’s plan A. Embracing and understanding her words changed my perspective on life, giving me strength to press on through the darkest trials, looking for God’s hand, grateful that my pain had a divine purpose. God never makes a mistake. The phrase has shaped and reshaped my life and has anchored me through many storms.
God never makes a mistake.
I vividly remember those words, a chapter title in Evelyn Christenson’s book What Happens When Women Pray.
Honestly, when I first read them, I was cynical. They sounded trite and naive. I arrogantly assumed that the author hadn’t struggled much in her life, or else she wouldn’t have made such a bold claim. In my mind, God was good and all-powerful, but to say that he never made mistakes had sweeping implications that seemed inconsistent with the massive evil and suffering in the world. Christenson’s statement so annoyed me I was tempted to stop reading.
As I read her book, I had just been through the fallout of a marital crisis while also pregnant with our oldest daughter. I was grateful we had put our marriage back together, but to say that God didn’t make a mistake seemed far-fetched. My life had been difficult on many fronts already. I had lived in and out of the hospital after contracting polio as an infant. I had been bullied throughout grade school. I had recently suffered three miscarriages.
I had a hard time imagining that God hadn’t made a mistake somewhere in my trials.
All My Suffering?
While I struggled to believe he had never made a mistake, I did believe that God had been in at least some of my early suffering.
When I came to Christ, even at sixteen, I was already beginning to see God’s purpose in my disability. I had happened upon John 9, where Jesus tells his disciples that the blind man’s condition was not because of any sin, but so that his life could glorify God. When I read that, I knew that God was speaking directly to me. He reassured me that my suffering had a purpose, which changed how I viewed my life and my struggles.
Still, even though I had seen God use my physical challenges for good, I doubted that principle applied to all my suffering.
What God Says About Sovereignty
Despite my skepticism, since I was leading the discussion on Christenson’s book at church, I had to keep reading it. I pored over the Bible before our meeting, asking God for wisdom and guidance, and was drawn to passages on God’s sovereignty and purpose. I grabbed a concordance and made a list of Scriptures that stuck out to me, like these:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs on your head are numbered. (Matthew 10:29–30)
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose. . . . I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:10–11)
I kept rereading these verses even though they made no sense to me.
Truth I Could Not Shake
As the discussion began, everyone had an opinion on the same line that had arrested me: “God never makes a mistake.” Some people decidedly disagreed. It angered them. “Of course, hard things happen in the world,” they insisted, “but we shouldn’t attribute them to God.” Others shared their painful experiences and struggles with loss.