My father was a pragmatist—Get er’ done! In the early 1900’s his parents escaped the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of Armenians which also included many Greeks living in what is now Turkey. Dad grew up in the Greek Orthodox tradition where practices and the sacraments lent themselves to the “get er’ done” sort of way. You showed up to church every week…lit your candles, repeated the prayers and responsive readings; genuflected when it was time, took communion and attended the fabulous annual church Greek festival (best food ever!). At some point in your youth you served as an altar boy. Have faith and get er’ done!
When I was a young adult I “came back to the Lord” as we Christians like to say. My father was quite amused that his rebellious, wayward, party-hard son had a newfound passion for God as did my younger brother around that same time. My dear mother had always been “walking with the Lord.” One of the things that Dad found opportunity to frequently kid us about was when there was a problem one of us was facing or talking about Dad would say with a smirk on his face, “Well why don’t you just put it in the Lord’s hands?” He thought it quite amusing that we thought God would take care of everything and make things right if we simply asked him to do so.
My father thought Christians who put matters into God’s hands often abdicated personal responsibility and the God given capacity to simply “do” what needed to be done while applying Godly wisdom and discernment. Putting matters “in God’s hands” for him was like saying, “It’s not my problem to solve, it’s God’s.” I must admit that I somewhat agreed with his perspective. Even to this day some forty-five years later I’m still perplexed when I hear others who are facing a problem say, “Well we just have to trust the Lord” or “God’s in control, it’s up to Him.” I know there is a deep sincerity and faith on the part of those who want to “release it to the Lord” whatever the “it” may be. I do respect that hope and longing in others.
I’m just a traveler in the mystery willing to say out loud what in years past I only wondered about and kept to myself. Like maybe God is not in control the way we often say it. I don’t mean he couldn’t be in complete control if he wanted to be. What I am suggesting is that by his design perhaps God doesn’t control everything that happens in the world around us near or far. God set in motion a world and universe and his aim was to create human beings with absolute freedom to be choosers of the good, the bad or the evil. Free to choose God or not. God set all things in motion not once and for all but just for now.
I know a Ukrainian woman who at this very moment is tirelessly working to get her mother out of Ukraine. She has been sending emails, giving friends, family, and supporters a day-by-day report of her progress to help her mom. She is asking for prayer that God would provide safe passage for her mother across the border when she arrives, which might be today or tomorrow. What is God in control of as it relates to this woman and her effort to get her mother out of Ukraine? I might argue that what God IS in control of or what God can be in control of if we allow him is our hearts and minds as it relates to wisdom, discernment and especially love. Whether it is good news or bad news, God can be in control or take control of our thoughts, reactions, heartaches and be the impetus for great joy and satisfaction if we so choose to allow him to take control of our lives by the Spirit.
Ukraine is a mess right now. There are Christians in Ukraine whether orthodox, protestant or Catholic praying hard for a way out of this nightmare. Is God in control? There are some who seemingly had their prayers answered and escaped while others who prayed for safety but who are being literally blown up in their own homes while trusting that God is in control. I get it. On the one hand we believe God is God and can do anything. On the other hand, he set creation on a path and our lives are completely at the mercy of that order. Be it at the mercy of the good or the evil that we perpetuate on each other because of what is in our hearts and minds—God or Godless.
The war in Ukraine is not in God’s hands really. Does God have hands anyway? The war is in the hands of human beings some of whom are certainly seeking God’s way while others are instruments of Godless human power, control, greed, and tyranny. Is God in control of the war in Ukraine? You bet! He is in it to the degree he is in every human being who allows him in their lives and who are seeking his control in their lives, whether in suffering or triumph. We can acknowledge a miracle here and there as a way God gives us a peek of what is to come in another realm beyond this one. God once told us that the earth is ours and we have complete dominion over the affairs of life. For better or for worse. Throughout all of history we’ve seen the better and the worst. Often at the same time. It is in our hands and all the better if he is in our hearts leading us in the Way.
“God, I pray that this woman and her mother are reunited across the border and that you are at work in their hearts and minds to bring about a deeper than ever love they might enjoy between each other. God, my heart aches for the many who are suffering and dying at the hands of those who do not know you. I know someday you will take control and make EVERYTHING right.”