“God is in control.”
I’ve heard that a lot recently, from people across the span of political views, and it doesn’t sit right.
We can argue endlessly (as Christians have for hundreds of years) about how divine sovereignty and human action interact. I’m not interested in that.
What I am interested in is how we are using the idea of God’s sovereignty and what it’s producing in us.
If saying “God is in control” helps us let go of obsessing over things we truly have no control over or influence on to focus on the things we can change, then it’s doing a good work in out lives.
One of the most significant things in my own life over the last several years has been taking the Serenity Prayer seriously:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
But I feel like too often in my own life, saying “God is in control” has been working in ways more destructive than constructive.
Too often it has been a way of spiritualizing passivity. I feel afraid and overwhelmed and don’t know what to do – or don’t want to do the things that need to be done. So I opt out. “God is in control. God will take care of it.”
But God generally does God’s stuff through “the body of Christ.” That would be us. We are God’s active expression of Godself in the world. When we pray, “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” we aren’t praying for some abstract thing to happen around us. We are asking (or should be) for something to happen through us.
That staggers me – that God would choose to use such confused and flawed creatures to accomplish his work. But God does, and all he expects is that we do our best.
As my understanding of the world and what God is doing in it has expanded and shifted and changed, the work I feel called to do has expanded and shifted and changed as well. I embraced those changes with fear and trembling. I had to wrestle with the question, What if I’m wrong?
I could be – but I trust Jesus in my journey and do my best to be faithful. I believe Love is doing beautiful and healing things in the world and I do my best to join in that work. And every time I pray, “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done,” I add, “…even if I am missing it altogether.”
Saying “God is in control” too often minimizes our responsibility.
God gives us real choices with real impact in the world. We choose to care for the poor and the outcast, or to ignore and abandon them. We choose to fight for justice, or to assume it will happen without us.
We choose to love one another, or to turn from love.
These are real choices with real consequences and impact. God in his sovereignty has given us control. He calls us to make choices of his love, but he doesn’t intervene when we don’t.
Intervening is our job as well.
Terrible things happen in this world because we choose them. Terrible things are stopped in this world because we choose to intervene. And beautiful and loving things happen in the world because we do them.
The Jewish Scriptures lay it out quite clearly:
“Today I place before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Now choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)
God in his sovereignty has given us real control. Real choices. And because God is life and love, all of creation is drawn to union with the divine source of everything good.
But we get lost, and we lose each other.
So choose life, and love. Choose finding ourselves and each other and everything good we can make of this world. Every good gift God has given us to choose.