I just finished reading a novel that was really good but extremely sad. In it, the main character and her family were in a horrible car crash, her parents dead on the scene, and her little brother and herself seriously wounded. As the novel plays out, her brother dies as well.
As she is in a coma, the novel is told through her eyes first as herself and then as she sees things in her comatose state. Stricken with grief over her family's passing, and in such bad shape herself that she would need quite a few reconstructive surgeries, the girl battles between whether she wants to fight for life anymore, or whether she wants to give up and die. Because according to one nurse, it is the girl's choice whether she lives or dies.
While the author did a beautiful job writing the story (except for the swear words, that is), there were a couple of things I disagreed with her on. One of them was this idea, that we get to choose our own destiny.
Because although we choose several things in our lives, who to marry, where to go to school, whether to accept Christ's sacrifice, we don't control our destinies.
In the book of Job, we get a glimpse of just how much God is in control of things. Satan approaches God, and accuses Job of only being faithful because of all the stuff God's given him. Satan insists that if Job lost all his wealth and kids, he would curse God instead of fearing Him. Later, Satan is adamant that, if Job was diseased and suffering, he would turn his back on God.
Of course, if you've read the book of Job, you know the end of the story. Job stays faithful (though admittedly gets a little whiny and woe-is-me, but honestly I don't know anyone except Jesus who wouldn't have in his position), God gives Job's "friends" a spiritual slap in the face, and Job gets more stuff than he had before, including ten more kids.
But have you ever noticed before that God had to give Satan the okay? Satan didn't come charging in, and say he was going to do all this crud to Job and there was nothing God could do about it. He had to wait for God's permission.
Even bad stuff can't happen to us without God's allowing it.
Of course that begs the question: why on earth would God allow all this crud to happen to Job? Why does He allow bad things to happen to us?
Why do we struggle with illnesses?
Why do we get passed over for opportunities we would love to have?
Why do we have trouble finding jobs?
Of course, there's always the possibility that we're suffering because we were stupid and did something we shouldn't have. Suffering can sometimes be chastising to bring us back to God.
But barring that, if we've searched our souls honestly, and God's not telling us to wise up and shape up, there's really only one reason God lets us suffer.
To work it out to our good, and His glory.
Remember Job? In the end, God's glory was revealed to six people (not including Satan, who obviously must have already known God was so awesome). Job's friends, who God rebuked. His younger acquaintance (they never mention when he happened along, so supposedly he came with the other guys), who also learned his view of God was rather flawed. Job's wife (you don't hear her telling Job to curse God after that).
And of course Job himself.
Job learned just how great his God is. Job got to see first hand that God had never forsaken him, though He did allow Satan to kick Job around a bit. He learned that, ultimately, God held his entire world in His hands, that all the time he was suffering, God was working it out, shaping his destiny.
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman, was a beautifully haunting story, which almost had me in tears (and I'm not a crier by any means). But unlike Mia, who was burdened with the choice of whether she would die or live, our destiny isn't controlled by us, but by One greater.
And honestly, I'm quite happy it's that way.