My boss used to tell people I was his spiritual adviser. I always reminded him that if I was his spiritual adviser, he should probably listen to me every once in a while. We had a pretty good relationship but he probably didn’t like it when I went to work somewhere else. In the area of spiritual advice, the thing he remarked about the most is that he remembered at one time that I had told him, “God is in Control.” Apparently, it helped him through some tough times when our company was struggling. The problem–it may not be true!
We like to think that God or the universe or something is controlling everything that we can’t understand or that makes us feel afraid. We don’t like uncertainty–we like predictability. Surely God would have the same heart, right? The trouble with this assumption is that control is usually predicated by fear and fear is not a quality that God would logically have. If He is all-powerful and all-knowing, why would He need to fear and why would he repeatedly tell us not to fear. No, I don’t think God fears and I don’t think he needs to control. I think we have confused this principle somewhat. Like many things, it was clarified by me children.
When my children were young, I tried to control their lives. I also was trying to remember how long that worked. Actually, I was trying to recall if it ever worked. In fact, some of the most frustrating and unrewarding times in my parenting life was when I was trying to control the outcome. Controlling often seemed to make things worse and I eventually had to apologize for being a jackass and frustrating the ones I was trying to help. I remember helplessly muttering, “I’m just trying to help” to one of my teenage children. Their reply was very simply, “You’re not helping!”
Not only does control often originate with fear, it also can lead to various levels of destructive behavior. When nations and denominations and people opt for controlling behavior, because they are afraid, they can very easily justify actions that they believe will stop whatever they are afraid of. It is why we can justify a genocidal god that destroys our “enemies” or vanquishes those that would oppose us. All levels of atrocities have been committed in the name of God and control. I find it hard to believe in this type of God anymore.
What does God do if He is not controlling us? I think we could safely say that God inspires us. Inspiration is so important and so much better than control or manipulation. Sometimes, we can inspire people by just being who we are. Certainly God inspires us by the example of Jesus and the reality of His being. But, God also has apparently called people to various journeys of faith with no definite promise of outcome except things like “I will be with you.” For the first few hundred years of the church, the church prospered under severe persecution–you can’t do that without being inspired! You can’t force people to go through tough times–they have to be inspired.
I think God also comforts us instead of controlling our outcomes. Why wouldn’t He just control the outcome and help us avoid the pain? If you are a parent, you know the answer to this. First of all, the child always resists the help of the parent and seem to instinctively do the thing that hurts the most. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is mutter under our breath, “that’s going to hurt,” and try not to laugh or cry. Second, there is nothing gained when someone does everything for us. Growth is almost impossible when parents control the outcome. What we need most is someone that will enter into our story, especially after we have messed up, and simply sit with us in it. What we do not need is to succeed at everything we do. When parents orchestrate their children’s circumstances, the product is almost always an immature adult. Comfort is way better than control.
As a parent, my children also knew that I was with them. I may not have been physically with them at all times, but they knew that I was a phone call away. They knew I was near. They also knew that I was for them. We talked a lot about the “team” and that we were here for each other. When I played football, I never wanted my teammates to do my job for me, but I wanted them to be rooting for me. We also realized that our children, would make mistakes. I didn’t encourage them to make mistakes, but they knew if they did, they were still loved and they probably would learn something from the experience.
For my former boss–for my children–for myself, it is important that we all realize that God is NOT in control, or at least that He doesn’t choose to control us and our situations. If we are honest with ourselves, we would understand that the request for whoever to be in control is an adolescent request. Eventually, we realize that control isn’t really what we want from our parents and it is not what we need from God. We need inspiration–we need comfort–we need encouragement. Ultimately, like most things, it’s about love. It’s about what’s best for us and not just what we want at the time.
God is not in control–probably because God is love. Think about that for a while!