Today as you scroll through your social media feed, inevitably you’ll find some story of yet more innocent lives tragically and violently ended. I just read one such story myself. I won’t bother to give the details because by the time you read this it will have been replaced by yet another story of similar magnitude. For the same reason, I don’t bother to read the comments on such stories anymore because those too tend to get recycled, and heated, and hateful, so why bother? But remove yourself from the social media age and some of those comments reveal themselves as universal, asked and asked again throughout the ages when tragedy strikes. One such question goes something like this: “Where was God in all of this?” It’s a logical question. From an observer with any moral fiber, seeing such unwarranted tragedy makes them question the validity of a loving and all-powerful god. If he can stop it, why doesn’t he?
The canned answer provided by many believers throughout those same ages has gone something like this: “God is in control.” Theologically correct? To a degree. Comforting? Not really. Given only this little nugget of truth to go by, the same observer may conclude that God either caused the tragedy or allowed it to happen. He is either guilty of murder or manslaughter. In any case, God is either toying with us or has abandoned us altogether. Is it any wonder then why people want nothing to do with God, if this really is our best answer? So the real question, the deeper question, is whether or not God really is in control.
From the very beginning control itself has been a struggle. Originally designed by God to steward the Earth, humanity was fooled into thinking that wasn’t enough. They were convinced that they needed more – more wisdom, more knowledge, more power. They didn’t want to have to trust God. They took control for themselves, a decision that still plagues their decedents and the planet they inhabit. In a perfect world, our control over the Earth would have been pure, God-centered and good for all. Instead, with the continual influx of sin, our control is warped into mere survival and greed. We not only struggle with ourselves, but nature itself struggles against us (Romans 8.20-21).
Ultimately, yes, God is in control in that his plan has been and will be worked out to perfect completion. But part of that plan was to give the pinnacle of his creation – mankind – control over the Earth. In our sin and selfishness, we’ve decided that we don’t want God to intervene in how we run this ship, that we’re good enough and smart enough to do it ourselves, thank you. And in doing so we’ve reaped the reward of that decision with chaos, destruction, and death. Yet when the next school shooting or personal tragedy hits, we dare to ask, “Where was God?” We ask God not to intervene when things are going well, then turn around and accuse him for not intervening when things have gone sideways. We can’t have it both ways. Either we invite God to intervene in everything or in nothing. And if our current situation reveals anything, it’s that we’ve chosen to kick him out altogether. So don’t be surprised at the results.
The one thing we must realize is that, in fact, we are not in control. No matter how much we fool ourselves, how advanced we become, how deep our thinking delves, how loving we proclaim ourselves to be, our control is a fleeting shadow. It’s just enough to influence the space and time around us, but in the end, our control remains in the dirt when we leave. To have any true, lasting influence in this world, we must yield our meager control to the Creator, the one who has eternal, final control. Only then can we hope to have any resemblance to the image-bearers he designed us to be.
So can God stop it? He can, and he did, through Christ who overturned the rule of sin. But that plays out through us. We must accept his rule in us to let him rule through us. So as long as tragedy continues to roll off your Twitter feed, know that it’s not God who is causing it. He made a way out. It’s we who are failing to run through.