God’s in Control?

The phrase “God’s in control” as it is commonly used is not expressing the truth about God. I don’t disagree with the foundational truth. I do object to the false message conveyed by how people use it. The implication is that every behavior and outcome is under the direct control of God and that no matter what heartbreaking calamity may happen to us or those we know and love, it is God’s plan for that person to suffer. This phrase is most commonly used to comfort people. It is not true and it is not comforting.

A friend of mine committed suicide 4 days ago. I was not comforted by a mutual friend who confidently summed up the tragedy with, “God’s in control.” In a 911 memorial service Ruth Graham Lotts said that the onset of cancer and death of someone in her family was God’s plan for his life. People have told me repeatedly that the calamity they were suffering was a part of God’s plan. Several years ago I heard a speaker from Dallas Theological Seminary say that the Virginia Tech massacre was God’s plan, right down to the last gory detail.

I have no idea how a Christian can come to that conclusion. Even though this belief absolutely dishonors God it is something He can forgive. But the real problem is the depth of human suffering that this belief can cause. It is the basis of another line of false thinking: “Since God is in control, there is no point in my prayer or effort to change my life.” This presents us with an interesting conundrum expressed with the question, “If it is God’s will that I have a disease then does the pursuit of healing work against the will of God?”

The theologian Gregory A. Boyd in his books, God at War and The Problem with Evil, convincing proves that God is not responsible for the evil in this broken world and the evil acts of man. God tells us to resist and hate evil. Boyd also observes that as Christians, we are by definition in warfare against the enemy of God’s people. God does not in any way cause evil and never plans for us to suffer. God has established a kingdom that accommodates enough freewill for us to be in the position to choose evil or with His strengthening grace be obedient to Him. Without this freewill there would be no way for Christians to demonstrate our authentic love. God receives obedience as love. True obedience cannot exist outside of freewill.

God redeems evil in our lives by using it to mold us to progressively reflect inwardly who Christ is, Romans 8:28-29. The outcome of this molding is to share in the divine nature of Christ. A person whose life is spinning out of control because of their anger can no more legitimately blame God than they can blame their angry and abusive parents. We have to own the evil in our hearts and take it to God with humility and submission. When we suffer from events outside of our control, we are called to praise Him not for the affliction but in spite of it. His promise is to redeem every situation in this world, but we must bring it to Him, not blame Him for it or shirk our responsibility to address it.

Remember God has conveyed us into His Kingdom through our belief in His Son Jesus. In His Kingdom, evil can be redeemed to our benefit and to His glory. We are subject to the evil of this broken world and the consequences of the condition of our hearts. My God is the God who redeems the evil of this world, not the one who orchestrates it.