I immediately felt a sense of despair. Then I struggled and grappled with this. Firstly, I was concerned for his own soul - this view of God, his view of life - it’s kind of hopeless. And secondly, I felt conflicted because yes, these things he says are true - there are statements in the Bible in which it appears that God has hardened someone’s heart purposely, whereby not giving the person a choice in their response; but in the same regard, I also felt this idea doesn’t display the full understanding of who God is in all of His attributes.
As such, I had to do some study for myself. I want to share my findings with you, in order to give you confidence and comfort in the loving and accepting nature of God.
I have not been able to find all of the 14 instances that my friend spoke of, I found about 7 - there’s maybe more, I just haven’t found them yet.
Exodus probably has the story most well-known where God hardened the heart of the Pharaoh and his officials. Israel was trying to get away from Egypt. Of course Egypt didn’t want them to go - Israel was their workforce! God provided sign after sign (the plagues) which brought suffering on the Egyptian people. God hardened the Pharaoh's heart in order that HIS strength and sovereignty would be understood, not only by the Egyptians but the whole world at that time. As Israel’s God brought them deliverance through truly awesome ways, news spread ahead of them, putting fear in the hearts of the nations that were in their path next.
Therefore, the hardening of his heart wasn't about Pharoah. It was about the establishing of a whole nation into the promise which God had made hundreds of years before, which literally changed the face of the world.
Most of the examples I found were similar in nature to this incident - it was about God needing to do something BIG in order to fulfil a prophecy, an agenda or promise. It had nothing to do with an individual - God’s hand in this had to do with national issues. (The other instances I found also took place with kings/nations which Israel was to subdue as they took over the Promised Lands or kings during the times of the prophets)
Going back to my friend's statement, he suggests if a person is having a hard time following God that it must be God’s will. I’d like to suggest a different mindset - that 99.999999% of the time, God is trying to “win” you over, show you who He is, draw you into His family, accepting you for who you are. Here are some scriptures that I think back this up well.
- For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
- [God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (I Timothy 2:4)
- The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
- Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18:23, 32)
- As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one. (Romans 9:25 and Hosea 2:23)
- For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
- For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. (I Timothy 2:5-6)
- For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. (Titus 2:11)
- This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (I John 4:9)
- [God] accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. (Acts 10:35)
- For through him we [both Jews and Gentiles] have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18)
- I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.(John 10:9)
- ...whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37)
God is always making a way to be with Him. There’s a story that Jesus told about a shepherd who left his whole flock of sheep just to look for 1 that was missing - he went out of his way to look for that one! That’s what Jesus did - leaving his heavenly home, going out of His way to make sure we all had a way to get to Him.
So unless God is going to use you to display His sovereignty to a nation or nations, I think it’s safe to say that He has hopes that you turn to Him
Don’t let the struggle, the difficulties of life, the sadness assume to tell you that God doesn’t care or that he didn’t make a way for you. He has, and he wants to show you His character which is loving and accepting.