God is in control, but all IS NOT right with the world.
So be honest. Ever had this thought enter your mind before? If so, how has it affected you? Has it challenged your faith in any way? Has it in any way diminished your relationship with God? Has it possibly even become grounds for your divorce from God over the years?
Such effects are surely not uncommon even among people of faith, especially owing to the faith tradition of believing God to be a Sovereign Master of the universe quite capable of starting or stopping anything ever in existence. All in existence, according to such a theological understanding, is under God’s Almighty control.
Such a belief about God seems naturally to spark our human doubts about God. After all, how could a loving God allow so much pain and suffering to exist in our world? Worse than our doubts, this triggers our deepest fears of abandonment, leaving us with the logic that since God has failed at the control-switch, we must personally take over the controls in order to make right the many wrongs of this life, this world. As we then fearfully take the world into our own hands (some call this “stressing out”) we most likely come away either addicted to our own adrenalin should things seem to work out, and become “control freaks” in others’ eyes, or we become so filled with despair that we shame ourselves and blame others for the out-of-control wrongs yet in our world.
But what if it doesn’t have to be this way? What if faith doesn’t have to be this way? What if God doesn’t have to be this way? What if we who actually believe in God could let go of our old faulty theology of a controlling Sovereign whose hand is fearfully gripping the control-switch on our behalf?
My own faith story has arrived at this preferred alternative: God is influential, and all IS right with the world. God uses influence as an ultimate act of love to cast out our deepest fears of abandonment that motivate our own controlling, “stressed out” behaviors. Control is the behavior of deepest fear. Influence is the behavior of highest love.
To illustrate, let’s say you have two parents of equal power in your own life to whom you owe your own existence. One parent is motivated to influence you in becoming your best self, capable of managing your own life and exercising your own free will or self-control. That parent stands ready at all times to inform your decisions, but expects you to make your own actual choices, respecting your own boundaries in the process. Parent #2 is motivated to control you by protecting you from all harm, all pain, all frustration along the way. That parent stands ready to make your decisions, and expects you to comply always for your own safety and well-being.
So which parent in this illustration loves you most? The one who exercises control? Or the one who exercises influence? Which parent do you love the most? And which one are you most fearfully addicted to?
My faith tells me the following answers to such questions: God is love. God’s perfect love casts out all fear. There is no fear in love. Within fear there is our desire for control. Within love there is our need for influence. Within fear’s control, all IS NOT right with the world. Within love’s influence, all IS right with the world.
My faith tells me it’s time to lose control. Let it go, let it go. And hold on, faithfully, to love’s Almighty influence instead.
In my next blog: how can we use our prayers to best influence God, and how does God use our prayers to best influence us?