Question: I hope you can help me: Even though God does not cause evil, is He in control of all that happens, including the circumstances that affect our lives?”
Response: We know from the record of Job that the Lord is sovereign over our circumstances in that He allowed Job to be afflicted by Satan, although limits are placed upon the adversary. Job:1:12 tells us, “And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.”
Psalm:139:1-5 states, “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways....There is not a word in my tongue, but...thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.”
The word translated “compassest” is an interesting word. In most places of Scripture it is translated “winnow” (or a variation thereof). Winnowing is part of the harvest process during which the wheat or other grain is separated from the chaff. After it is shaken loose or beaten off the stalk, the grain is tossed into the air, where the lighter chaff is blown away and the heavier grain falls back to the ground to be gathered.
This is interesting because it literally means that the Lord “winnows” our paths in life, removing the chaff and preserving the whole grain. From our perspective, we might very well ask, “Lord, you said you removed all the chaff, but I have experienced disappointments, trials, and great loss at times. Aren’t these things chaff?”
The Lord leaves things that will be used to strengthen us. As much as our flesh hates the principle, we know that “tribulation worketh patience” (Rom:5:3). Job confessed, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job:23:10). Paul, when petitioning the Lord to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” understood that the Lord allowed it for his own good and would not remove it. He writes, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness...” and concluded, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor:12:9). Thus we can see that the Lord is in control over the things that come into our lives, and He uses them for our good and for His glory. But He never forces or causes us to act in any certain way, whether for good or for evil.