by Angela Monroe
“Don’t worry, God is in control.”
I’ve heard it over and over. It’s the phrase that is supposed to bring me comfort. I know people mean well. I know they say it to make me feel better. Somehow, though, it doesn’t.
I am young. At 23 years old, I have no idea what I’m doing. In my life, my career, my calling, and my marriage, the possibilities are endless and overwhelming. I could be anywhere in just a year’s time. Life seems to be limitless but also sometimes feels directionless. Plans change daily as doors open and shut, and it can be stressful and confusing. I think many people my age experience the same thing. We’re all just trying to figure it out. It’s the universal feeling of being lost. There are a million places we could go, but the path… to anywhere… isn’t clearly marked. Yet, pictures on social media, devotionals, and council… all avenues… tell me that God has a plan for my life, and that he is in control.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel as if this is true. It feels like the opposite. Sometimes I ask God to take control of my life, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t answer me one way or the other. He is silent. Sometimes, bad things happen. When there is seemingly endless pain and suffering around me, how I am supposed to believe that God is in control? It’s not the easiest thing to do, and it certainly doesn’t bring me comfort when I think about the purposeless pain that, if God were really in control, he could have prevented.
This phrase seems easy to say in times of hardship. It seems like it should be comforting to someone like me, someone who doesn’t feel a clear sense of direction for her life. It ties a nice little bow around our problems and lets us know that whatever we do, God is going to take over, and it won’t really matter in the end.
It may be my youth, or it may just be my stubbornness, but I want to have a part in what goes on in my life. I want to be in control… at least a little bit. I want the choices I make to matter. I want my life to make a difference in the world. But if God is truly in control, then it doesn’t seem to matter what I do.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of taking a class with Dr. Tom Oord. For other students, taking difficult classes means lots of homework and late nights studying. For theology students, it means completely rethinking your worldview and idea of God. This is exactly what Tom’s class challenged me to do. Tom challenged my beliefs with questions that are addressed in The Uncontrolling Love of God. If God is really all powerful, can he be all loving? And, if we say God is love, how could he be in control? I wrestled with these questions over and over throughout the class and have yet to come to a solid conclusion. However, after reading through Tom’s latest book, I find comfort in some of the possible answers.
In Oord’s view of essential kenosis, God does not have the ability to control anything. Rather, his love allows for randomness in the world as well as human responsibility. In this view, God’s uncontrolling love gives humans the ability to control their own lives. Although God walks alongside, loving and wooing people toward him, humans ultimately make their own decisions which, in turn, affect their lives and the lives of others. Maybe God’s love really is all-encompassing. Maybe, because God is love, he is not completely in control.
This idea of essential kenosis is comforting to me. It accounts for the random tragedies that occur as well as the random luck that we experience on a regular basis. It also makes space for an understanding of God’s character as relational love as opposed to power.
In this viewpoint, God does not have a plan for my life. Although that may sound heretical to some, it is comforting to me. God is not sitting above me planning every detail of my life before I even have the chance to make a decision. Rather, he is walking alongside me, wooing and guiding as I take each next step. His love for me is so great, so deep, that I get to participate in it. I get to be in relationship with the all-loving, uncontrolling God, and in that I find comfort.
Angela is a recent graduate of Northwest Nazarene University with degrees in Music Theory and Composition and Christian Ministry. She has stayed on campus, working full time in the Admissions office. Angela has been married to her high school sweetheart Todd for just over 2 years. Todd is continuing his education as a Mass Communications major and will graduate in May 2017. In their free time, they love to go on walks, drink vanilla lattes, and watch reruns of The Office.