In the course of the day, I’ve started seeing a variety of comments on the subject of ‘God is in control.’ Most of these comments involve one of two ideas. First, there is the usage of the term in a way that sort of ‘rubs salt’ into someone’s wound. You didn’t like how things turned out? Sorry, but God is in control. Second, some have started using it as a rallying cry to mobilize people for future political and cultural battle. A sort of ‘make lemons out of lemonade’ spiritual application. Now, there’s really nothing wrong with either recognizing God’s ultimate control of temporal things or gathering people together to fight for a cause. But it seems to me that when the theme ‘God is in control’ comes to the forefront of scripture, it is usually in a particular context: the context of faith and suffering.
The disobedient nation of Israel is sent into exile for 70 years and the people must recognize that God is in control of these events. Job loses everything and must learn to accept God’s purposes in his life. Israel endured 400 years of enslavement, crying for deliverance, and that is portrayed as God’s will. Jesus tells his disciples that they will be persecuted as he was persecuted and most of them were killed for their faith.
The book of Revelation has this theme of God’s control all through it. We have a picture of martyrs in heaven crying out to God, ‘how long until you stop the killing?’ and God tells them, ‘a little longer.’ God is in control when believers are being persecuted and killed. God is in control when he judges the living and the dead for their faith or lack of faith. God is in control no matter how much it seems he is out of control.
I don’t like seeing the phrase ‘God is in control’ used like a weapon to motivate or to say ‘I gotcha.’ It is a deep reality that challenges every believer to look at the worst in their lives and in their world and to recognize that things are amazingly complex and incomprehensible yet we can hold fast to our faith because God is in control of human history- past, present, and future.