Is God in Control?

Is God in Control?

Yesterday I shared these words from the AA Big Book, “I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.” Today, I am wondering if I truly believe this.

This year has been a year of tragedy for our country.  The flooding in New York and New Jersey followed by the shootings in Connecticut; A significant portion of American’s still out of work; A governmental system that seems to grow more dysfunctional every year. When I first read the statement, it resonated with what I have been taught by the church – God is in control.  But in the midst of so much suffering and pain, do I really believe these words?  Was God in control when the gunman slaughtered innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary?  I find it offensive to even think such a thing.

Pastor Sammy Williams is a man I deeply respect.  His spiritual depth and honest assessment of the bible have allowed me to feel at home in the church for the first time in a long time.  However, Sammy said something this past Sunday that has me a bit perplexed.  He defined the word “hope” as the realization that God is in control.  When he said it I wrote it down and thought, “Yes!”  This morning that “Yes!” has turned into a “really?”

As we enter into this new year, I want to believe with certainty that God is in control and that whatever situations I face will be exactly the way they are supposed to be at that moment.  I want to believe that tragedies like Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook, will never touch my family and that I will never feel the pain of losing a family member tragically, unexpectedly and in a way that no loving father would allow.  Unfortunately, my own life experience and the continued pain all around us will not allow me to confidently make that statement.  Doing so would require that I believe God allowed these tragedies and this thought is totally inconsistent with my experience of our loving father.  I simply cannot do it with any level of integrity.

Pastor Sammy shared a beautiful message after the Newtown masacare in which he reminded us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” He said, “Christmas is about light and darkness: Light from beyond breaking into the world’s darkness; God entering this world in person to show us why we have hope.”  He goes on to write,

“On December 14th, 2012 darkness covered all. A thick, evil, unthinkable darkness as twenty first graders, six educators, and one mother were slaughtered, and the lone gunman then took his own life.


But these Advent candles remind us that faith is a decision: we choose to believe that the light shines in the darkness and we choose to believe that because God raised Jesus from the dead, darkness—no matter how evil, how deep—is temporary; one day it will be swallowed up and banished by God’s great everlasting light.


Our decision to choose hope instead of despair, somehow reflects the light of Christ into the dark corners of this world. In a dark sea of evil, doubt, anger and frustration, you are lighthouses of sacred love.”


We live in a liminal time between the initiation of God’s work through Christ and the culmination of that work.  The light can and will overcome darkness but the light does not control the darkness.  I choose to believe that even in the darkest of times the light is present.  That may not be as comforting as a confident proclamation of “God is in Control” but it does give me hope.

May you all enter this new year filled with hope and may the light of Christ shine more brightly in and through you.


  1. Yes, the “God is in control” statement is something I used to buy into completely, but not anymore, for the very reasons you stated. I spent decades immersed in very conservative churches and I conveniently explained away the bad things in this world. I can’t do that anymore. Young women in third world countries are being sold into sex slavery daily. Where is God? Children are shot in cold blood in elementary school. Where is God? Murders are committed every day somewhere around the United States. Where is God? Yes, we have free will, but is that a sufficient explanation?

    God is here. Yet if God is in control – in the manner in which we understand “being in control” is, then I simply don’t understand. Yet I still believe in God – but I no longer walk around with that steadfast “knowledge” of being able to explain everything he’s doing or not doing – like I used to – or thought I was able to. My fellow conservatives and I would routinely look at every situation and come up with a biblical sounding explanation for why God did such and such. I now look back on that and say, “nonsense”. I no longer attempt to “explain” events and what God’s role was or wasn’t in it. I still thank him for the blessings in my life and acknowledge to him that there are many things I don’t understand.

    I’ve also done a complete 180 on helping the poor and less fortunate. My previous conservative ways shunned “liberal” programs that reached out to help the poor. (“They’re poor because they’re lazy” was the very convenient excuse for ignoring the poor) I now embrace them. (no pun intended).

    Thanks for all you do with Embrace Richmond. Its a wonderful outreach.

    • Hi Dave,

      Thank you for your insightful comment. Like you, I used to just accept the party line and expose Christian platitudes with little or no real thought about what I was saying.

      I did not really start to question things until I suffered great loss and the pat answers felt hollow and honestly hurtful in the face of my loss.

      I am also excited to hear that you and I have traveled a similar path as it relates to our Christian responsibility to care for those in need.

      Like my journey with easy Christian responses to evil, I have found the traditional answers to issues of poverty are just as flawed.

      In both cases, the longer I am on the journey seeking real answers the more I realize just how much I don’t know.

      Thanks again for your comment and your kind words about Embrace!

      • The liminal space is where we must rely on God totally. We can be comforted here and this is where we really do find out who is in control. If our perspective is such that things we judge as bad, dark, evil make us question our higher power then it suggest that our faith is based on pleasing self and not feeling confident in our relationship with God. Our whole experience on earth is a liminal space or time. It is acceptance of a fourth dimension that allows me to understand that I don’t understand and from this perspective understand that God really is in control and it is not a requirement for me to understand. Let go and Let God… a favorite.



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