Control is an illusion … God is teaching us to trust him.
I had a close friend, John M. who was a truly godly man and active in Christian ministry. He had a devoted wife, three lovely daughters and everything to live for. Then came his throat cancer diagnosis, which led to years of painful treatments, ending in his death five years later.
John and I talked many times during his illness, but one conversation is seared in my memory. I asked what he thought God was teaching him through all the pain. Without hesitation, John responded with a quotation from Job 13:15-16, one of the earliest writings of the Old Testament:
“Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him.
… For a godless man may not come before His presence.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I told him that this was the identical passage that God had given me years earlier when I, too, was struggling with a life-threatening bout of cancer.
In our endeavors to make sense of what was happening, John and I — like Job — were inundated with a lot of worldly advice from our friends that was just plain dead wrong. It was only when we turned to God and, in effect, said, “God I don’t understand any of this, but this I know, I trust you above everyone else, no matter the outcome.”
We faced our human limitations and took hold of the only unmovable Being in the universe, God Himself. The resulting inner peace carried us through like a child falling asleep in his mother’s arms.
We humans are like soldiers under fire in a tiny foxhole, barely able to see what is in front of us. But all soldiers know that somewhere, away from the chaos of the front lines there is a general with the strategic plans, intelligence resources and sweeping perspective, who is conducting the overall battle plan as he sees fit. The soldier’s job is to trust his leaders and obey their orders, however irrational they may appear at the time.
Similarly, Christians have an immensely qualified leader who, according to Revelation 22:13, is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
He is empathetic, and identifies with our weaknesses, having once said, according to John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
What’s not to trust in a Leader who has been down in the trenches, just like us?
We are immersed in a God-denying culture that has elevated mankind to a position way above his paygrade. Poet William Ernest Henley wrote, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”
If the Bible is anything, it is about a conflict of intentions — first between God and Satan, and then between Satan and man, and finally between man and God.
We are faced with the tragic specter of the all-powerful God, who flung the planets into orbit with the simple statement of intent, “Let there be …,” in a head-on collision with creatures that He deeply loved. It wasn’t until Jesus Christ appeared on the scene that the words “Thy will be done” ushered in a new era of realignment between man’s intentions and God’s intentions.
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in hell choose the latter. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and consciously desires joy will ever miss it.”
How About You?
Have you come to the place where you realize that ultimately, the notion of “control” apart from God is an illusion? There is another approach. God is recruiting volunteers now to join Him as family members and partners in the loving fellowship of those taking part in “a tremendously creative project, under unimaginably splendid leadership, on an inconceivably vast scale, with ever increasing cycles of fruitfulness and enjoyment,” as Dallas Willard put it.
Next week, more lessons from our coronavirus pandemic.
— D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information, or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.