I will never in a million years understand how our free-will and God’s sovereignty work together. It’s a great mystery. We are given free-will to make our own choices yet God is in control. A well known story in the Bible is a perfect example of my quandary: the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. In case you aren’t familiar with it or need a refresher, this scene from Exodus sets the stage:
(God said to Moses.) “You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt he will not listen to you….And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it” (Exodus 7:2-5).
God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. How does free-will fit into this scene?
As I prayed the other day for a friend of mine who lost his job, I saw a picture in my mind of Pharaoh. I’m not sure how I knew that vision was of Pharaoh (I’ve never met him personally) but I just knew. And I knew that what I envisioned as I prayed was God’s prompting and promise. He was reminding me of His sovereignty in circumstances and His goodness, favor, power, and love.
Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? To demonstrate His power, reality, and goodness. He also proved His choice of people. He validated the Israelites. They are forever His chosen ones. His favorites.
As I continued to pray for my friend who lost his job, another person came to mind. This dear friend is going through a divorce. Though she lives states away, during phone visits I walk through many emotions with her as she shares her heartbreak and grief. In so many words, when a husband either demands or resigns to a divorce, the wife reads his choice as “He doesn’t want me.”
I know I’m about to step onto slippery ground here, but what if….what if God allowed my friend’s husband’s heart to be hardened?
“Oh Andy, God hates divorce! He would never do that!”
Yes God doesn’t like divorce, but I’m not so sure he would never do this.
But I am sure that God is good.
I still haven’t figured out the dichotomy of free-will and God’s sovereignty, but I have come to the conclusion that I must rest on His goodness. I must trust that He loves my friends who are walking through the shadows of rejection and disappointment, and He desires to take them out of places of bondage into His promised land.
Yes, sometimes God hardens hearts.
We must trust Him.
Have you ever experienced a hardened heart–either your own or someone else’s? Did resting in God’s sovereignty help you? If you’ve struggled with this, I pray this post will help.
God loves you.
And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance to God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:27-28).