Even my faith.
Yes, I’ve tried to control God.
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? On the face of it it sounds patently absurd, no matter what your view of God is like, when you hear the term ‘God’ you don’t think of a being you can control. The whole idea is impossible.
But I’ve tried to do it nevertheless. There are several cunning ways my soul comes up with to do this, many of which I do without even making a conscious decision to do so.
First, I can get angry with God and make demands and accusations of Him, which are patently ridiculous and make assumptions about His character which in reality I know aren’t true.
Second, I don’t give Him a chance to respond. I don’t spend enough time listening to Him to hear what He has to say in response.
Third, I restrict God to human boundaries – I treat Him like He’s human and sees things from my limited perspective. This above all is something that it’s so easy to do that I often don’t realise I’m doing it. I attempt clever theories of what God would think or do of a specific action or in a certain situation. Now, in some ways, that’s not a bad thing in itself, because it helps me figure out what it means to follow Him more effectively.
Taken to it’s extreme however, I can start to think about how God would think based on how I would think, which is of course a futile gesture. Because I’m not God. So there’s simply no way I can ever fully see things the way He does.
Fourth, I make decisions about what God wants or approves of based on my own feelings and opinions, rather than letting God speak into a situation. This is similar to the second, but on a deeper level.
Fifth, I occasionally get carried away when I’ve read something new about God, and act like suddenly I have all the knowledge there is, more than everyone else – as if God doesn’t know all of that and more already.
Do any of these sound familiar?
I could go on, there’s plenty of other ways – often linked with practical things around my faith and my church life – that I try to control God.
I’m guessing that even if one of the above doesn’t apply to you and how you see God, that there are other ways you try to control God.
Because we all do it.
Any argument that we don’t is simply avoidance.
Subconsciously there is something in all of us that wants to try to control God – or at the very least, our view of God.
That way the very thing that in reality is not and cannot be fully known to us, is out of our control and bound in with mystery, is less scary to us.
Because the mysterious, the unknown and uncontrollable, which God is, can be scary.
Trying to control God, or our view of God, is a great temptation for all of us – one of the most underestimated temptations we face and one we are often unaware of.
We can try to control Him through knowledge, through limiting Him to human boundaries, through religion, through not giving Him any space in our lives and making assumptions – and lots of other ways, often unique to each of us.
We’re often scared of the mystery. Of the unknown and unseen.
I know I have struggled a lot with at once knowing God is beyond my knowledge and understanding, a God of infinite mystery, but still, paradoxically trying to control Him.
But we cannot merely surrender control to God.
We must surrender our need to control Him.
Which takes trust.
Giving up control of God, or our view of God, is a matter of trust. It’s that simple.
Do we trust God enough to not try and control our view of Him?
Isn’t that real faith?
When my Mum died, I remember distinctly acting almost on auto-pilot. I simply got through each day, I dealt with what was happening and I kept going, being a support to those around me. I wasn’t in control at all, I was merely going along with what was happening, without any strength of my own to sustain me.
Yet it was at this period that many of my friends said my faith was strongest.
Because at that moment, circumstances had disarmed me, and I was no longer able to control God or my view of Him, I was simply fully reliant on Him to sustain me.
It was Him that was strengthening and sustaining me.
He was in control, not me.
In reality, that’s always the case – it was simply in that moment, of complete weakness and surrender, I was no longer trying to control either Him nor my view of Him.
So suddenly I came across as stronger – because I wasn’t getting through on my own strength at all, circumstances almost compelled me to be fully reliant on God.
I am learning that if I am to journey more into the mystery and the unknown of God, to have a deeper intimacy and experience of the divine, I have to begin by simply trusting that I cannot control Him. To choose that experience I had when my Mum died and apply it within my day-to-day life and relationship with Him.
I must trust Him enough to allow Him space to speak into my life.
I must trust Him enough to accept my opinion isn’t always the right one.
I must surrender completely and allow Him to be my strength and comfort.
I must live out the reality that no matter how much knowledge or success I have in life, that the mystery of the divine is beyond my understanding, beyond my control.
Above all I must trust that this out of control God has my best interests at heart. That He’s on my side.
That I don’t need to control Him. That I don’t need to comprehend Him.
I can simply trust Him. And be satisfied.
How do you try to control God, or your view of God?
Are you brave enough to embrace the mystery of an uncontrollable God?
How can we better surrender our need to control God and allow for mystery?
Have you ever had an experiences which have reminded you how God is in control, not you?
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