Have you read Adam Hamilton’s very good book Half Truths:God helps those who help themselves and other things the Bible doesn’t say?
Half truths are the things we say that are meant to be comforting and initially sound good, but often miss the mark. Hamilton covers five half truths in his book. Unfortunately, we Christians have more than five half truths. From time to time here we’ll add to Adam Hamilton’s list. For example:
“God is in control”
This is a pretty common “half truth”. It is true that God is in control however, that sentence needs some thoughtful nuance.
We sometimes say “God is in control” in an effort to comfort people. We might say it to someone who has received a bad diagnosis, suffered a loss, or who is enduring some difficulty in an effort to assure them that things will be okay.
However this statement “God is in control” may not be heard as a comforting statement. Imagine a child you love is mortally ill. Did God decide that child should have cancer? Did God allow that child to have cancer? Does God actually want that child to have cancer? And if so, to what end?
God is in control.
We might say it when things are going well. I got the job! It’s not cancer! Mom is okay!
God is in control.
We might say it to comfort ourselves. There may be nothing I can do about my situation, but, God is in control.
God is in control.
Can be an excuse. I don’t need to act. God is in control and so my action doesn’t make a difference. Climate change? God is in control. Particular social and economic systems? God is in control. Election outcomes? God is in control. Suffering from war or natural disaster? God is in control.
God may indeed be in control, but we would be wise to think about how God is in control. How is God at work in the world? If God is in control, does that mean everything that happens is God’s will? Is everything-for better or for worse- caused by God?
In addition, if God is in control, what then should we do? Do we simply accept our situation? Are we absolved from trying to change the situation of another or of ourselves? If we try and fail, does that mean we have acted contrary to God’s will? If God is in control, do we have to worry about the consequences of our actions? If God is in control, do we have any effect on what happens?
What we might ponder is not whether or not God is in control, but how God is in control. It seems to me, most of the time, God’s control over events is done through us and with us. God is in control when we allow God to be in control of us.
God’s control, God’s actions in the world, flows through us when we work for justice, when we take action. God’s control is made real when we take care of each other. When we try to do what is right again and again and again.
We get up each day and give God control of our lives. And then we get to work. We show up. We take care of each other. We vote. We offer aid. We attend to things both large and small. The child next door and refugee children in Europe. Climate change and my personal energy use. Your diagnosis and everyone’s access to health care.
God’s control flows through us when we allow God to be at work in our lives -In happy times and in sadness. The things that bring happiness and joy are received as gifts rather than achievements. We don’t avoid grief or sadness, but it can be transformed into the sure knowledge that God is always present with us, no matter what. God shares our grief and sorrow.
Yes God is in control. But God is neither a puppet master nor dictator. Perhaps we might speak more truthfully if we say “God is present”. God is present in our grief. God is present in our joy. God is present in our sorrow. God is present where there is injustice. God is present when justice is done.
God is present with us always.