HE’S IN CONTROL, BUT NOT CONTROLLING
There has been many times through the years that I’ve prayed for something over and over, and haven’t seen the result I was anticipating.
Sometimes my prayers feel like I’m repeatedly and franticly pressing the “Call Nurse” button next to my hospital bed. “I’m in pain here! Where are you?” If she really were on the ball, wouldn’t she have been here by now? Is she busy with someone else, on a break, or just ignoring me? As least she could come and tell me that she’ll be back as soon as possible. But I get nothing
We were singing a worship song during a church gathering last Sunday, a line of which stated that “God is in control.” I paused to ruminate about that for a few minutes. On one hand, I think the song was right; he is “in control,” I don’t think, however that he controls everything (at least in the “particular” sense of it). I’m not implying that God is anything but omnipotent. His power is unlimited, but he did choose a system in which the way he would wield his unlimited power would be limited (for a limited period of time call human history). He is able to do anything, but he organized his world in such a way that his beloved would have their own choice to love him (or not) in return. He wouldn’t force himself on his sons and daughters, but would wait for us to return his love. His “omnipotence” is not the same as “omni-control.” He’s in charge of everything, but he doesn’t necessarily control everything that he’s in charge of.
God knows every sparrow’s life span and has our hairs all counted; but he didn’t go so far as to say that he extends the lives of all birds or gives all bald men more hair. I’m not saying that he couldn’t do those things if he wanted to. If a circumstance presented itself that required such an intervention, I suppose he would do it and not work up a sweat in the process.
He’s in charge of everything,
but that doesn’t necessarily
mean he controls everything
that he’s in charge of.
He’s in control, he has control, but he doesn’t exert total control in every circumstance. There’s no doubt that he can and will control the events of history’s final chapter, the ultimate outcome of his free will experiment. In the meantime, however (and believe me, some of these “times” can be pretty “mean”), he doesn’t always intervene to prevent a disaster or even fix one once it occurs. Sometimes he chooses, what seems like, a “hands-off” approach with human affairs and lets our choices sort of take their course. He can, and often does, sweep up our broken pieces in order to create something better than we were before (Romans 8:28). I love it when he does that.
Sometimes he does regulate earthly circumstances in such a way that the sick are healed, abuse is prevented, and injury or death is averted. It’s certainly appropriate to ask him to do just that. “You have not because you ask not… Ask and you shall receive… According to your faith be it unto you… I am the Lord who heals you… ” But if and when he doesn’t intervene like we were hoping, then we should expect his “peace” that helps us cope with the circumstances such as they are. “Let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God which passes understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4).
So, here’s how I see it. I’m experiencing something contrary to the life of the Kingdom of God, so I ask him to intervene and exert some “control” over it – heal someone, prevent a disaster, provide for someone. But in this particular case, for whatever reason, he doesn’t do the intervening (at least not the sort of intervention I was looking for). The healing doesn’t come or the crisis becomes worse instead of better. So how am I to think about that? Where do I go from there?
My rule of thumb is to trust him to do one of a few things:
1) Sometimes I ask him for the faith to continue asking for the answer that I’m looking for. He often delays his interventions, and he has his reasons for it. The devil may be opposing the release of the resource, God may be waiting for some earthly circumstances to line up with his will, or he may just be building my faith and patience through the delay. So, I keep asking.
2) In the meantime, I wait for God’s “peace” (Philippians 4) that helps me cope with his non-involvement (at least not the kind of involvement that I was hoping for). I may keep asking or I might not, but I bask in the kind of peace that’s better than stressing out to figure it out.
3) If a solution is never provided for my problem, I trust him to “work all these things together for some sort of good” in my life or in the lives of others (Romans 8).
He can, and often does, sweep up our broken pieces in order to create something better than we were before…
I’ll say it again; I believe that God is in control, but in this world, he doesn’t always control every situation. Do we ask him to exert control over a satanic purpose or an episode of human evil? Absolutely, yes! Unless he expressly asks you not to ask, always ask. (I often ask God to ask me to ask him for whatever he wants me to ask him for.) Sometimes the “Sometimes God” will do what we ask him to do, and sometimes he won’t. Either way he’s a mystery, don’t you think?
If he does what we’re asking him to do there’s mystery. “How did he do that? Why would he even notice me, let alone listen to my requests? What a mysterious God!” If he doesn’t grant our request, there’s another mystery. “Hmmm, I wonder what he’s up to? I’ve seen him work a miracle in similar circumstances before, and yet this time he stands by and doesn’t seem to do anything in particular. But I feel a peace that he’s with me, and so I will trust him to work in these circumstances and in my heart, regardless of the outcome. What a mystery!”