A gracEmail subscriber writes: "Sometimes I feel like God is playing a giant game in which we are just the pieces. He already knows how my life will turn out. Why does it matter if I struggle to be close to him or to serve him? Does prayer really change things, or is everything predetermined?"
According to the Bible, God is sovereign and humans are also responsible. Of course, we cannot grasp both ideas simultaneously any more than we can view all sides of a globe at the same time. But it doesn't really matter that we can't resolve the tension because we are not God and he has not given us that responsibility. (Click here to see a brief Power Point presentation illustrating how two realities that seem irreconcilable to us may be perfectly unified to God.)
Divine sovereignty is not fatalism -- we can say more than "que sera sera" ("what will be, will be"). Yet knowing that God is ultimately in charge of the universe gives great comfort, peace, joy and assurance to those who entrust themselves to him and abandon themselves to his care. Nothing can happen that is beyond God's final control; even our bad choices are not the last word. Paul tells us in Romans 8:28 that God works everything together (literally, "synergizes" it all) for the final good of those who love him (human responsibility) and are called in keeping with God's purpose (divine sovereignty). Paul unpacks that truth from eternity to eternity in the next few verses, then concludes with the rhetorical question: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
According to Jesus, prayer does affect God, who sometimes does things because of prayer that he would not do without it (Lk. 18:1-8). Finally, we rest in the confidence that while we encounter the same problems, adversities and ills that affect unbelievers, we face them with the knowledge that we are in the hands of a God who loves us, who has all power, and who finally will make right all that has ever gone wrong in this broken and finite world.
For more on divine guidance, click here.