“God is in control.” Never has a religious phrase rang so hollow as over these last six months. God isn’t “in control” – not in any dominating or commanding way. It didn’t take the chaos of 2020 to reveal this fact, and thanks be to God for it; because if God is managing the minutia of our world, then God is our biggest problem.
For it is the controlling God who destroys one person with cancer, but capriciously spares another with the same disease. The domineering God wills one car to crash in a ball of flames, and miraculously keeps another vehicle on the road. An interventionist God smashes one farm house with a tornado, and commands the whirlwind to skip narrowly over the one next door. If that is God’s “control,” then God is cruel. God is being grotesquely unjust. Yea, God is being evil.
Yes, there are plenty of religious people who believe in such a God, but I am not among that group. Rather, I am with the late William Sloane Coffin who said, “God doesn’t go around this world with his fingers on triggers, his fists around knives, or his hands on steering wheels.” I don’t believe in a God who is less ethical than those God created, or less humane than humans made in God’s image. Put simply: I don’t believe in a sadistic God.
Thus, God’s “control” must be something altogether different. It must be less about sovereignty and more about solidarity; less about an infallible blueprint in heaven, and more about uniting with us in our sufferings. It must be less about God’s command and more about God’s compassion; less about God’s imposing will, and more about God’s constant presence.
The contrast I often make is this: Life and God aren’t the same things. God is good. Life can be, but sometimes isn’t. God is just. Life can be, but sometimes isn’t. God is love. Life can be, but sometimes isn’t.
In this fixed system of life there are storms, earthquakes, and wildfires: This is the nature of life – of planet earth. There is cancer, heart disease, and sickness: This is the nature of life – of occupying fragile bodies. There are coronaviruses: This the nature of life – of the wild, untamed physical order. There is cruelty: This too is life – it is the nature of the sometimes fallible human heart.
So, we know that we are not beyond the reach of injustice or agony. We know that our hearts and bodies are sure to break. We know that we are not impervious to suffering. Truly, c’est la vie. But we also know the everlasting, always sustaining love of God.
My friends, there is not much control in this world – divine or otherwise – but there is plenty of love. I wager, that if given a choice between absolute certainty or unconquerable love, most of us would gamble everything on love, betting on the grace of God to carry us to the end of the age.