Arguing with a sovereign God: Confessions of a back talker

toddler with red adidas sweat shirt
Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on

Today at church a guest pastor preached.  And I mean preached. And it hit me right upside the head.

Both this week and last my pastor, and the pastor who preached today, brought a message about the sovereignty of God and how it is that people come to salvation by God’s election from Romans 9. Truths were proclaimed with light and passion that drove away the snakes that wanna slither up and bite you with doubt about the goodness of the God of the Bible.

I confess I had a really hard time last week with what was proclaimed.  I found myself like Jacob, wrestling with God and there was no nice neat bow to wrap up my attempts to grip and twist God into someone I could have some kind of control over.  I scribbled notes in my bullet journal about how not everyone who calls themself a Christian is a Christian.  Just like everyone who called themself a child of Abraham in Jesus’ time wasn’t really a child of Abraham.  Big amens resounded from my heart. I could see that and I agreed.

But when he said, “Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated” I tried to do a low center of gravity blow to the God who created the universe and take him down to a place where I could get hold.  I sobbed my way through that preaching. I stopped scribbling notes and eeked out a poem:

I keep wrestling with your sovereignty
I want to give up
What good does it do to be angry
I just can’t stop until you bless me

I couldn’t hide my arguments from God.  I wanted to know if my husband was Esau.  “Do you hate him?!”  I thought.  As though he was a defendant and I the prosecutor.

I tried to listen and grab hold of something tangible.  But like a strong, sweaty man, wrestling God’s sovereignty was breaking me. He wan’t submitting to my grip.

Although I left last Sunday limping, broken, not understanding, I resigned myself to wait for his blessing.  To wait for the day when I would hear some sweet message of hope in the hard sound of his all-powerful voice.

Today was the day.

I limped through this week, and today he blessed me.  Not with cupcakes and sprinkles.  No cheap, easy-to-swallow feel-good message today.  But a blessing of a good father.  I finally saw the look in his eye.  I had been throwing a fit and he caught my eye today and I realized, I’m a back-talking child of God.

The pastor today said many things I scribbled down, caught in attention like a misbehaving child stopped by her dad’s strong and serious voice.  But one particular thing brought me to my knees.  He said:

Whenever we begin to question a sovereign God on issues of justice and mercy we are way out of our depth…
God is God therefore whatever he does is godly.
God is God therefore whatever he does is just.
God is God therefore whatever he does is good.

I’m not comparable to Job.  I’ve suffered pains of the heart but not the trauma, pain and loss he did.  But I thought of Job hearing the preaching of the good news in the hard truth of God’s soveriegnty today.  I thought of Job’s reasonable arguments and God’s response:

Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

And the Lord said to Job:
“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.” (Job 38:3-5, 40:1-2)

God is good.  The God who would reveal himself in a suffering servant, bearing the sins of the people who would love him.  And who am I?  I don’t understand. I’m way out of my depth to think I can bend God to my will and make him do what I think is just and right.  And why would I even think I could do that!?

I’m a slow to believe believer.  I’m a back-talking daughter of God.  And today I was humbled by his strong voice and loving character.  I know he’s good.  I know that. I can go on that.

Like Gandalf getting grumbling Bilbo’s attention with his booming voice while Bilbo tried to sneak around giving over the ring of power in his pocket, I was stopped in my tracks today.  Reduced to a whimpering, “I’m sorry Father!”  I walked the aisle to the broken bread and the crushed fruit of the vine and handed over the ring.  He is God.  And he is so good as to make himself broken for me.  I surrender.



  1. I really appreciated your post. I just completed one of seminary courses that focused on the Book of Job and so your reference to the Book of Job and use of that powerful verse from the epilogue really resonated with me. I too felt challenged by God’s speeches to Job and the Book as a whole. It was a great reminder that I don’t have to know or control everything. I can rest in the assurance that everything is in the hands of our amazing, awe-inspiring, holy, ominiscient and might Creator. Thanks your insights.

  2. Sheila Dougal says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it Anne. It is good to finally rest in the hands of our good God.

  3. onelostcoin says:

    I just read this three times in a row. How powerful! A lot of us talk so freely about all the happy stuff of being a Christian but get silent when it gets hard. Thank you for your genuine, heartfelt words that amazingly describe what so many of us feel.

    Your Story Matters.

  4. Sheila Dougal says:

    Thanks Jessie!

  5. Kandace Wilson says:

    Thank you sis. I am a back talker too. But I’m so grateful He listens and responds as my Good Father.

  6. Sheila, this is beautiful and honest and holy. This is true. When we’re open about our faith walk, we must admit these battles, these times when we fight it out with God. My biggest fight was when we had lost everything after a flood including our home, and I was so confused. A friend invited me to a bible study where one passage we examined read: “I am the Lord, and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these”
    (Isaiah 45:6-7 NASB).

    What! “Creating calamity?! You did THAT God?” I threw that study book across the room and spent a long, long time working my way through the whys. I, of course, reached the same conclusion as Job. But it was a mighty fight. God prepared me with that truth for over two decades of many trials ahead of me. I didn’t know I needed that preparation, but he did. Blessed be his name!

    Thank you for sharing your story and for writing it so beautifully and poetically!

  7. Sheila Dougal says:

    Thank you Melinda! I think we all feel these wrestlings with God if we’re honest. It’s a good feeling to rest in his soveriegnty in the end. Thanks again for your words and sharing some of your own story.

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