Yes, you read that right. And as sacrilegious as it may sound, I will say it again, “God is NOT in control.” My entire life I have been taught over and over that God is in control and that He is always working in our lives. It is supposed to comfort us when we are hurting or scared, and strengthen us when we are weak and weary. After all, He has made so many promises to us in His word, including Romans 8:28 that says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Although that is true, along with all the other promises about how He will never leave nor forsake us, there have been many times where it seems that just isn’t true. Sometimes our thoughts, emotions or lives feel so out of control, even when we are trying to serve God faithfully, that we start to wonder if God is REALLY in control.
As a person of faith, with a strong commitment to trying to live out that faith in my daily life, I realized something very basic in the middle of a very troublesome night. God is NOT in control of everything. You would think that revelation would make me feel worse, but it actually started allowing me to see things much more clearly. I believe fully that God is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful) and omnipresent (everywhere at the same time). If you are thinking, “Then, logically, everything is in His control,” you would only be partially correct. The truth is He is in control of everything within His control. The Bible teaches us something very, very clearly: Mankind has free will. We have total freedom to choose. In other words, the one thing God cannot control is me – unless I allow Him to do so. God did not create us as puppets, but rather as intelligent creatures to which He gave an overriding ability to choose. We can choose to believe Him or not. We can choose to serve Him or not. We can choose to obey His word or not. Are there blessings and consequences that come as a result of our choices? Most definitely. Will God override our choices? No. He wants us to choose life. He wants us to choose Him, but He will never force any of us to do anything. For those of us who have accepted Him as Savior, He continually works in our life to bring us to a place (or keep us in a place) where He can freely bless us, but if we choose actions, behaviors or even attitudes that take us further away from Him, He will honor our choices. Again that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences such as the loss of peace, direction, comfort, etc., but we are FREE to choose. He actually died so that we could have the choice to accept or reject His free gift of eternal salvation, but He also died so that we had the free choice to love, trust and serve Him or not.
I laid in bed awake for hours tonight, struggling with some intense emotional upheaval around a variety of issues and people in my life. My mind, which is prone to an intensity that some have never experienced, had spun into a chaos that made me physically ill. Emotions were running rampant, and soon I could not make heads or tails out of whether those emotions were mine or if I am carrying the emotions of others around me because of the empathic sensitivities I’ve always seemed to have. I tried to sort out each worry, fear, sadness and other troubling sensations based on things I have been (or am) dealing with, but the more I tried to sort, the more chaotic things became. It’s like trying to trace an impossible spaghetti diagram, or untangle an impossible knot. The truth is I’ve always struggled with times like this, nights like this. Stresses in my life seem to pile up, which then increase my already heightened sensitivities, which then cause me to start spinning out of control. I have written creatively about these times in the past, poems, songs and musings, trying to describe the horrific sensation of such intensity and chaos. Even when the stresses or emotions are positive, the result ends up the same. There is chaos that is frightening and sadness that is overwhelming. I replay every situation, interaction and conversation, looking for clues that will help me understand what I am sensing. Did I say or do something that made someone angry or upset? Did I miss something that I should have seen that could have changed a situation personally or professionally? And the more I ask myself questions, I find there are less answers. Perhaps it is worse in the dark of the night, but it can be overwhelming even in the brightest day.
I confess I have always been a worrier, which, coupled with my upbringing, has definitely made me prone to analyzing every aspect of troubling situations. I do so in order to ensure I have multiple paths to reaching a resolution of those situations. Last Sunday in church, we had a sermon that focused on the ability to wait on God. At one point, we were presented with the difference between waiting and doing. I have never been a great “waiter” and usually start immediately looking for ways to resolve the issues in my life when they arise. As the preacher mentioned, that kind of behavior is most often rewarded in our society. It makes us look competent, decisive and driven. Waiting is looked at as being lazy and uncommitted, but God tells us over and over to wait on Him. For me, the chaos in my mind at times is so difficult to manage that I will do almost anything to restore order as quickly as possible. I scramble for solutions, but then one troubling situation reminds me of another and another until the cycle perpetuates itself. It happened last week during a work day, and it happened again in the wee hours of the morning today. And as I was frantically trying to unravel the tangled knot, I could hear in the distance of my mind, “God is not the author of confusion.” I kept fighting with the knot, chasing one strand after another, then I heard again in the distance, “God is in control.” Somewhere inside me, I carry the truth of His word and it echoes back in times like tonight. But as I heard in my mind what I have heard all my life – that God is in control – I realized it was not truthful in the way I had always heard it. It is then I actually whispered out loud, “God is in control when you allow Him to be.” Suddenly things started to become clear. If I choose to continually try to solve things or unravel the knots on my own, God will completely allow me to do so. He will never force me to wait, and He will never force me to act. I am totally free to choose chaos or comfort, rest or worry, freedom or bondage.
The beautiful thing about the statement that God is in control is that we can know we rest in the hands of the One who spoke the worlds into order. We can rest in the hands of the One who created us and loved us so much that He died to save us. We can rest in the hands of the One who is with us always, knows exactly what we need, and has the POWER to make it happen. What a great assurance to know that He is in control. But all of these benefits, and everything He promises us in His word about having peace and contentment, are contingent on whether or not we ALLOW Him to be in control. When we just keep saying, “God is in control,” without reminding each other that He is only in control of what we allow Him to be, we are doing a great disservice to each other and to those around us. It is true that God is not the author of confusion, and if we (if I) will surrender my messy thoughts, emotions, and actions over to Him, then He will sort it out. I can relax, knowing He IS in control and has promised to work everything out for my good. We all long for a sense of order and control when things are overwhelming us. Sometimes we strive for that sense of control above all else, even if it’s false, but I have good news. You actually do have control. You control whether or not you will choose to allow God to take over and work things out.
So as I sit here in the dark, exhausted by the battle of the night, or as you sit wherever you are, facing the battles in your own life or mind, take heart. As a child of God, you have access to every blessing and promise He has ever made. You can have peace, strength and comfort even in the most stressful or discouraging moments and situations. You can rest knowing the God who created you and knows you better than you know yourself, cares more about you than anyone else, and has the power to accomplish or change anything at any time. You can rest because He has got your back and is working things out. You can have it all, if you are simply willing to give it all up. God is completely and effectively in control of everything you are willing to surrender to His care. Neither one of us can do this alone. I need Him to sort things out and He needs me to let Him.