A Benign Way of Living

I heard it again this week. And it made me cringe. If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time you’ve probably heard it hundreds of times. I think it’s a Christian cop out. Over coffee with a friend, we discussed the failing state of the economy particularly its impact on our own personal financial situation. Then she said it. “Oh, well, God is in control.”
Now let me flatly state that I undoubtedly believe God is in control. There is no question in my mind that the God of the universe is sovereign and all-powerful. I am utterly convinced my life is in the hands and strong arms of a loving, reliably benevolent God. So what’s my problem?
Firstly, it’s the way we say it. So flippantly. So…Ka sera, sera, what will be will be. We walk away disengaged from what God might be birthing or restoring in our lives through this crisis…or pain…or disillusionment, relieved nothing more is required of us than to assure ourselves of divine omnipotence. There is no participation with God. We don’t stop to ask ourselves, “I wonder what God is up to in all this?” We act as if the only important thing is that God fix what ever is the problem. What we don’t realize is the great work God usually wants to accomplish is the transformation of our hearts into the likeness of his Son…and God often uses such crisis’ to do it. God always invites us into active participation with him in his purposes and ways but we seldom take the time or the effort to pay attention to what that looks like in our lives, especially when we think he should just “show up” and make things better.
Second, I believe we secretly believe that because God is in control he will work it out or fix it how we want. He will surely make it go well with me, we think. Isn’t that what my friend meant? Surely she didn’t think that she would lose her job or have her 401k collapse. The tragedy in all this is when God does not move or work in the way we prescribe, we feel slighted, disappointed, or worse, angry at God’s seeming  indifference at our condition. And in doing, we miss the struggle of what it means to follow a God whose ways are higher than our own. It’s such a benign way of living.
This made me think of Jacob wrestling with the angel at Peniel (Gen 32:22-32). Although I have never wrestled I do know you cannot remain unengaged; and it requires all of you, body, soul, and mind. The wrestlers’ bodies are fully engaged and there is intimate contact. It seems very personal! God seems to enjoy wrestling with us. He, in fact, even invites us into it. However, we often just don’t want to go there. We don’t want to wrestle with God. In doing so, we miss the blessing of what comes out of that engagement. We may walk away with a limp, but also with a new name.
Perhaps you’re believing God for healing. You say, “You’re in control, God!” Indeed he is. But don’t miss the healing he brings because you’re looking for it to look a certain way. Perhaps healing has more to do with learning to worship than getting life fixed.
God is in control. His agenda includes helping you recover your life. Real life….in all it’s messiness, mystery, and glory.

  1. And when we are talking about things that involve our culture, our nations, people around us, it is a cop-out to simply say “God is in control”. It means, “I don’t have to become politically active, morally aware, emotionally involved with what is causing things to breakdown. God is my insurance policy.” I don’t have to think that perhaps the way that I live impacts many people unknown to me. That while 2 billion people in the world live on $1 a day, I contribute to their poverty by how I consume.

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