Sunday, January 4, 2015

"God is in control . . ."

"God is in control." 

This is another phrase I can add to my list of "annoying Christian phrases".

Do not, I repeat, do not tell me that "God is in control" unless you want to get virtually bitten.

That phrase is one I often hear from well-meaning Christians. It’s supposed to be a comfort to me but it really doesn’t help one bit.

This is what I hear when I hear the phrase, “God is in control”:  

“I don’t know how to handle your questions, and I don’t know how to handle your negative emotions, or your pain, and I’m uncomfortable with them. Frankly, I’m not even sure if Christians should be thinking the way you’re thinking and feeling the way you’re feeling. But I know I’m supposed to say something spiritual here. So I’ll just give you one of the patented Christian phrases that we all use. Then I can walk away feeling like I've done my Christian duty by trying to 'encourage' you.”  

“God is in control” makes me think that I have no right to the feelings that I do have: the feelings of fear, anxiety, etc., over my personal circumstances and the circumstances that are around me. That phrase gives me the impression that Christians are supposed to smile and be happy (as opposed to being joyful) through everything, that they are not allowed to weep, show fear, show concern, etc. 

It makes me think of the verse in James that asks, suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If you say go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed, but do nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? If you say, “God is in control” but don’t take the time to listen to the concerns of a brother or sister, and maybe guide them towards some practical help, what good is it?  

There’s another verse in Proverbs that says: “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” (Proverbs 25:20, NIV) More often than not, THAT is what the phrase, “God is in control” does to me.  

The episode I think of when I hear the phrase "God is in control" is this one:  Right before the 2008 election, I said to members of my small group that I was really afraid of the outcome.  Immediately, two Obama supporters chorused, "God is in control."  My mental reaction was, "Of course you can say, 'God is in control'!  Your candidate is going to win!"

I do believe that God is sovereign and his will will be done. I do believe that God takes care of his people. It’s not the principle I have the problem with. It’s the use of the phrase as a Christian cliche, as what is called a “thought stopper”.  

Yes, you can probably call me cynical. But that just happens to be where I am at this point in time. 

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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