Monday, August 20, 2012

You are What you Think 3 - God's in charge

As children, we believe that God has 'the whole world in his hands' and we trust God loves us and will take care of us. We believe this because we are taught it by people we trust. As grown-ups, we tend to not be so sure of these same premises. Yet when we have our own children, we go ahead and teach them that God has the whole world in his hands even if we don't quite believe it ourselves.

Our grown up way of thinking complicates things. If something good happens, we either don't give God credit for it or assume we did something to deserve it. When something bad happens, however, God is the first person who's door we knock on to complain. As grown ups, we aren't very consistent or very theological about the way we think of events in our lives and in the world.

Scripture is very clear that God is in charge and that God will do what he will do. He is not capricious nor is he vindictive. God is GOOD and knows the outcome of everything before it happens. What God ordains might not seem 'good' to us, but we have to trust that He knows what he is doing. Just as the disciples couldn't fathom how Jesus dying on a cross was a good thing, we know in retrospect that it was the greatest gift God gave to us.

We also have to admit that God isn't responsible for every bad thing happening to us. We are humans who are fallen, along with creation, and have a propensity to choose evil over good. Sometimes God intervenes and saves us from the consequences of our sinfulness and sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes He chooses to walk with us through the pain that this life often brings. God has already saved us once and for all time with the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, to step in every time we sin and either prevent us from sinning or prevent the consequences of that sin, would not be good for two reasons: 1) To prevent us from sinning would be to take away the free will that God gifted humanity with 2) to step in and protect us from the consequences of our sins every time we decide against God, would not be good parenting - at some point we have to learn from the consequences of our behavior and take responsibility for our actions.

Knowing that in our heads is one thing. Trusting it in our hearts is another.

Most of you are probably at least somewhat familiar with the traditional hymn "It is well with my soul." For most of my life I loved this hymn and then I found out the story behind it and I disliked it intensely for quite a while.

Horatio Spafford wrote the words to "It is well with my soul" on his way to bring his wife home after she survived a shipwreck which left their four daughters drowned in the sea. At the time I thought it unbelievably callous that this man could write a song that no matter what happened to him he trusted God and would praise Him in any circumstance. It seemed to me that he was ignoring the fact that his four daughters had all just died in very tragic, and most likely terrifying, way.

Praising God in all circumstances is directed by scripture (Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), but I knew that if I had been in Horatio's shoes, I would not have been thinking such praiseworthy thoughts. 

While scripture also gives room for us to be angry with God, we always have to keep in mind that no matter what happens in this life and world, God is in charge and God knows what he is doing. Our human emotions will go up and down regarding that Truth, but the Truth remains the same.

In the years that have passed since I first discovered the history of Horatio's hymn, I have grown to love it again. I now recognize Horatio's words as those of someone with great faith in the goodness and omnipotence of God, not someone who didn't care about his daughters.

Our emotions are wonderful things, but they can also lead us away from the truth that God is in charge of his whole creation and that no matter what events take place, God is aware of them, has allowed them or caused them, and will work them out for the good of those who love him.

Whether we feel it or not in the moment, the bible tells us (and the Bible is always true) that God does, indeed, have the whole world in his hands.

Chesney Szaniszlo

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28