Who's In Control?
In our modern, highly technologically advanced age, it is easy to assume self sufficiency and the ability to make our wishes come true. There is an attitude in this age that if an idea sounds good or works on paper, then it should work in real life.
While some humans have always been tempted by such thoughts throughout history (mostly the young, the powerful, the rich), in today’s America and the developed world, it is easier for more people to think this more successfully more of the time, and all the more so as we have moved into climate controlled urban areas that provide readymade food, water, sanitation and other creature comforts.
There’s just one problem.
It’s not true.
Sure we do have remarkable abilities to transform our environment, but that is a far cry from actually controlling our environment.
This was brought home to me in triplicate today.
Someone close to me had surgery today to repair a broken bone in her foot obtained when she was carrying her young daughter into the house and tripped over the cat a couple of days ago.
I found out today that a roommate I had one year in grad school died in his sleep Tuesday at age 46.
I JUST learned that a local friend of mine nearly died today after a yellow jacket stung her in the back while she was walking to her car from a meeting.
I can assure you that these events were not in their daily planners, and for all three their lives have been altered forever to a greater or lesser degree. The first person now has metal permanently inserted into her body, a TSA windfall. Tom is with the Lord (best outcome, still unplanned for that particular moment). And my friend now must carry an epi pen with her everywhere.
They were living their lives normally, and major events happened to them. Thanks to our technology, the impact on the two ladies were minimized and corrected, but the traumatic events still happened, causing pain, suffering, expense and inconvenience. There was likely nothing technology could have done for Tom, but that just drives the point home harder—we simply are not in control. To believe so is to succumb to arrogance and risk disaster.
There is One who is in control, and He has promised not to let anything happen to us who belong to Him that is beyond what we can bear. He has also promised that life in this fallen world will have tragedies and crises, until He comes again to restore all things.
We are not in control, but it is not wrong to fight against the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Tragedy and suffering may produce good things through them, but the Bible never calls them good in and of themselves, only that God works good from them. Thus, we do not sin when we rage against death, fight disease, seek to minimize the impact of natural disasters or whatever. Jesus did the same with His miracles.
Our good fight turns to sin when we cross the line from realizing we are moderating risk to believing we are controlling it. At that point, God often doesn’t have to punish us. Such overconfidence tends to breed carelessness that opens a back door for our comeuppance. Much of our punishment and suffering in this world is not from God’s hand but the natural outworking of the consequences for our actions.
It is more often when we escape such consequences that we see God’s hand moving to prevent tragedy, not His hand causing it. Theologians call this ‘common grace’—when he protects people from their foolishness, whether they know Him and follow Him or not. It does seem like common grace benefits His people more than those who are not, but this may be due to the fact that His people are more likely to recognize His hand in events than those who don’t know Him so don’t recognize they dodged a bullet or Who may have had a hand in sparing them.
But it is this illusion of human control that is one of the leading causes of people not turning to Christ. As long as I am in charge of my life and domain, I don’t need God. As soon as I have lost everything and don’t know where my next meal is coming from that I realize how small I am in Creation and begin looking for someone or something to take up my cause.
Christianity has been variously called the opiate of the masses or a crutch for weak people. I would agree with the latter and disagree with the former. Ask those who have dealt with people high on drugs and they will tell you how much damage must sometimes be inflicted on someone who is both high and violent in order to stop their rampage. They can be shot, have broken limbs, be mortally wounded and yet they keep coming because their mind is so divorced from the reality of their physical condition. Given this, I would argue that all of us, being in a fallen state are ‘weak people.’ It is those who are sober that realize it and take the crutch offered to them to aid in their healing. It is those high on the attractions of this world that don’t see their need and keep moving towards destruction because they are distracted from their true spiritual condition. The illusion of control is an addictive drug, but it ravages our soul the way drugs ravage our bodies and minds.
Which do you want: the opium of control’s hallucination or the crutch of the Author of grace and redemption?