God Determines, Not Permits
A Chapter Review from Who Am I?, by Norman Grubb
What a privilege it is when the Holy Spirit reveals spiritual truth to us. He does this in many ways: through the Bible, Christian literature, other believers, spiritual conviction, etc. I’m excited to share about a chapter from Norman Grubb’s book Who Am I? titled, “God Determines, Not Permits,” where I’ve come to a deeper understanding of how God operates, and I hope this review will give you a glimpse of the biblical truths found in Norman’s writings.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there suffering in the world? How could God allow this devastation to happen? These are all questions we’ve either asked ourselves, or we’ve heard others ask. We answer them with statements such as “We’re a fallen world, so while not God’s intention, he’s allowed these bad things to happen,” or “God allows Satan dominion in the world, so Satan’s brought about this pain,” and I’m sure you’ve thought or heard of other answers. “God Determines, Not Permits” hit me at my core and turned my understanding upside down as Norman revealed that, just as the title says, God determines, not permits, suffering, pain and devastation.
At first, I had to ask myself, “Really?” Yes, really. We have to re-visit the fact as Norman discusses, that God is all and in all (Ephesians 4:6). Nothing is outside of God; from Him came ALL creation. We see how he establishes pain and suffering in the Bible as necessary, good and right for his people to endure. In Hebrews 2:10 it says “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering,” and 1 Peter 5:10: “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” God determines suffering for his people, He has a purpose in it.
“But why?” we may ask. Norman explains that “all sufferings are purposed as redemptive in the individual lives of each sufferer.” Suffering is a crucial tool God has us experience in our lives so that we may be mature believers, established in Him and His word, either to free us from sin, or to mature us in our faith. Norman further explains that we focus on our outside circumstances, and believe those circumstances, those sufferings, are our real problems and that we need relief from them. We are spiritual people, material things are temporal, fleeting, and Norman describes that our “true sufferings are within and not without. They are because we are inwardly committing the fundamental sin of ‘the evil heart of unbelief.'” True suffering is a spiritual condition, separation from God because of sin.
But we’re still suffering in our material world, there’s still pain. What’s the answer? Norman clearly explains that we are to “transfer our believings.” Instead of looking at the thing itself, we see through the situation, the circumstance, to the Supplier. We look through to see God with the total solution to our pain. Even though everything on a physical and emotional level seems impossible, we transfer our believings to the opposite: that God has already met us where we are. The decision to put our faith in Him lets him through, yet as Norman describes “our believing doesn’t do a thing in itself. God is the doer. God is the one who deliberately put us in this problem situation and thus awakens us to get into faith action.” And we know that by living a life of faith in Christ, we become established sons of God, vessels for His glory and His use.
What does this look like in everyday life? Thankfully, Norman breaks it down in this book so we may practically apply this truth in our daily life. A devastating event occurs, a loved one dies, or even the daily life occurrences that no matter how many times we encounter them, are trying and difficult. We now have the freedom to put our faith in a simple truth. We look right through that situation, practical need, or whatever, and say, “That is only appearance. That is real on the matter world level, but I’m not really living there. In my real self, my inner spirit joined to God’s Spirit, that need is not real to me. It is not there to me. I only see my God of all supply where my natural eyes see only the lack.” We transfer our believing. We are meant to have that problem. We are meant to experience that suffering. God is determining that situation to happen in our lives for a redemptive purpose.
“God Determines, Not Permits” is revolutionary. We know and expect that we will encounter hardship, pain, persecution, devastation in our own lives as well as seeing it in the lives around us. But, we have the answer in a God who isn’t passive and just standing by, but who is actually determining these circumstances. It appears to be opposite His character of love, but as we come to understand that our outward suffering is not the real suffering, but only separation from Him is the true suffering, we come to see that God has a wonderful plan for these situations to work in our lives and the lives of people around us.