Saturday, February 04, 2006

Who's in Control Here?

I have recently been thinking a lot on the subject of God's sovereign control over my life. I have a situation that has been bugging me, basically something that I really, really want to happen, and it has become pretty clear that this thing is NOT going to happen for me. I have agonized and prayed and wrestled with the why of it all, wondering why God would not give me this thing that would mean so much to me, blah blah blah - we've all been there. I've run the gamut of emotions - angry, sad, frustrated, depressed, angry some more, at God, at the individual(s) related to the circumstance who had the decision in their hands, and therefore, in my mind, the power to give me what I want.

As time went on and I realized I really needed to get past this issue and LET IT GO, for gosh sakes (I'm not detailing what it is here, but in the big picture of life it's really not a huge thing, but it's been a really big disappointment for me), and that I needed to turn to God to get there. I began reasoning it out: Do I believe God is in control of everything? Yes, I do. Do I believe that if this thing I want was God's will and purpose for me, he could make it happen? Yes, I do. So if I do, then logic follows that if it's not happening, then it's not part of God's plan for me. Now I had to grudgingly and unhappily concede this point, because I'd much rather blame the person who made the decision. And I realize that it could be that this person is going against God's will in this issue. And you might say, well God doesn't bother with small matters like this. But I am choosing to believe that, because I sincerely wanted it so badly, and prayed quite a bit about it, God would have granted it for me, but for some reason he had other plans and this was not what he wanted for me at this time. Then in Bible study this week, I was reading a whole lesson on God's power and how there is nothing that happens on this earth that he does not either ordain and control or allow to happen. That's a biggie - allow to happen. God doesn't make everything happen, or not happen, but he does allow things, all for his ultimate plan.

Then, one day this week I was watching Oprah, and Susan St. James (remember her from McMillan and Wife-if you're old like me-or Kate and Allie if you are younger) and her husband and sons on to talk about the plane crash last year that injured her husband and one son and killed another one, 14 years old. They were discussing the tragedy and how they dealt with it, and it was a very moving program. At one point Oprah asked Susan about how she dealt with her grief, and she shared that she was raised Catholic (I think, not sure) and that she had to come to terms with why God would allow this to happen. She basically said that she came to the conclusion that when Adam and Eve left the Garden and man was given free will, that God's power was taken away and God just looks on, and the world unfolds as it should.

Now, this statement caused me to stop what I was doing and just look at the TV for a minute. This was so completely the opposite of the beliefs that I had just reaffirmed about God, and it just made me sad, that the only way someone could accept the loss of a child was to believe that God had no control over it. I have never suffered such a loss, and without walking in those shoes I cannot really say how I'd react, but I sure hang on to the hope that my faith would carry me through that valley of sadness.

This is kind of a heavy post, but it was just on my mind this week. God really is in control, and if we believe that, really really believe it, then we have to look at every circumstance of our lives through that lens, and try to understand, or at least learn from, each situation that happens to us.

There was a short-lived show recently on NBC (which I shall blog about later) called The Book of Daniel. Very controversial, but I just wanted to mention a bit of dialogue that made me go "YES, that's how a real, personal relationship with Jesus sounds!" Daniel, who is an Episcopalian minister who is quite flawed and has a really messed up family. His mother has Alzheimer's, but is still quite functional and alternates between normally lucid and not knowing who family members are. It was portrayed in a very sad and moving way - she was a very elegant, still beautiful woman, and the pain in her husband's face and the rest of the family as well was so realistic. Anyway, Daniel was talking with Jesus, who is a character and they have someone dressed as Jesus occasionally walking by, riding with, whatever, Daniel, as they talk about things. Now, I really liked this because that's kind of how I visualize my relationship with Jesus - he's right next to me as I talk to him. So Daniel looks at his mother in the other room, and says to Jesus, "Can't you do anything for her?" And Jesus replies, "You know it doesn't work like that." And Daniel ruefully says, "Yeah, I know. I just don't know why." Now THAT's real. That's how I think a Christian with a real, raw, honest, transparent relationship with Christ would think about a situation like that. It's not a matter of can he or can't he, but just will he, and we don't always know the why or why not.

That's what I'm talkin' about.


Julie said...

We're studying James in our church small group. You gotta love him in the Message paraphrase. Maybe he has some wisdom for you:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, 8adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don't ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that's a picture of the "prosperous life." At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.
Don't let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, "God is trying to trip me up." God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one's way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.
So, my very dear friends, don't get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

mytriparoundthesunshine said...

I wanted to watch "The Book of Daniel," but never did. Wish I had. My sophomore year of college was one of those times when I *felt* very close to God. He and I would talk as I walked to my classes. It was a beautiful time.

And yet, life is not always so beautiful. There have been several issues and events in my life (and I'm not quite 30!) that have made me ask those hard questions about whether God causes things, allows them to happen, etc. And my conclusion is that, because we do have free will, God must relinquish *some* control to us (scary thought). So, sometimes God allows things to happen. Sometimes it's because of something we did. And sometimes it simply is not. These matters are hard to grapple with. But I do believe that (a) God is sovereign, (b) He loves me unconditionally, and (c) He will work everything out for His glory and for the good of those who love Him.

Thanks for this post. It's important to examine these issues and our own personal walks of faith.