I get confused on this “control thing.” Am I supposed to control or not? Is it a good thing to weigh in and exert influence? Is it good to try to impact the world and my circumstances? Or am I trying to “play God?” Am I failing to trust Him?
I know which one I prefer. I want to be the change agent, to be able to influence my world and mold it into what I want it to be. I want to use every resource I have to conform the world and the people around me into the circumstances or image that I believe best.
I often live that way. I work hard to control my world. I work hard to make it work the way I believe it should. And I think there is Biblical precedent for that. God put Adam into the Garden to rule over it – digging, planting, naming, filling. Adam was the man! He was large and in charge.
Yet that “large and in charge” got him into trouble. He took his authority too far. He wanted to be like God, knowing what is good and evil. Ultimately, that is me too. I think I know what is good and what is not. By my definition good is usually the most rewarding and the least painful. Good makes me feel good, sometimes when I shouldn’t. Good helps me avoid feeling uncomfortable, even when that discomfort is what makes me grow. After all, pain is bad, right?
Yet there is danger on the other side – you can become fatalistic. Sometimes when my plans to control life don’t work, I just want to give up. If my words don’t convince you… if my actions don’t garner the desired outcome… I want to quit. I want to leave it up to you because I can’t do it.
God is calling me to be faithful, not successful. He is calling me to love even when love doesn’t seem to work. He is calling me to sacrifice and experience disappointment in this world in such a way that I only find my satisfaction in Him. Sometimes, He uses my impotence to show me His sufficiency.
But there is a middle ground… or a place where both are true. There is a proverb that says “Man plans but God directs his steps.” I like that. What if, in the middle of an authentic, vibrant daily relationship with God, He calls me to plan? He wants me to move into my world as His agent/ambassador. And I do that to the best of my ability. I plan and work and move assuming I have listened as well as I can to Him. But what happens when it doesn’t work? Have I failed? Have I taken control and missed God?
Not necessarily. What if my mood was more “I’m going to do the best I can. And I am really glad that God can correct that direction if it is best for His purposes?” What if I could believe that He is always bigger than my plans and always able to use my flawed plans for His purposes? What if I knew that failure wasn’t really failure, because I believe that He knows how to redeem it?
There are actually some days when I believe that. But sadly, on most days, my failure to control feels like failure. On most days, I don’t really believe that He has me in His hands. On most days, I want to be like God, knowing and determining good and evil. And on all days, He does what He knows will be for His purposes. And ultimately, eventually, I usually either relent, give in, am convinced or simply see that He is God… and I am not. With that, I am much better off that He is in control.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.
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