Christian, Stop Telling Me God is in Control

There’s a similar refrain I hear from the lips of many Christians these days, whenever the subject turns to the growing dumpster fire in DC and the resulting unrest in our nation:

“Relax, God is in control.”

The words are designed as a conversation stopper; an iron-clad, sanctified mic drop, exempting them from further discussion on the matters at hand and supposedly assuaging all my fears in four simple words. 

The only problem is—it’s not true, at least not in the way they might like it to be right now.

In these days, with so much that is untenable and threatening and worrisome, tossing off a quick “God’s got it” is a subtle bit of heresy:

It imagines that God engineers election outcomes the same way as football scores.
It exonerates people from any culpability for a vote they perhaps now feel was regrettable.
It nullifies any concept of personal free will, by giving God ultimate veto power over us.
It excuses inaction in the face of other people’s present suffering.
In matters of injustice and suffering and evil—it essentially passes the buck to God.

But the story of the Scriptures, is one of this same God, granting Humanity the power over their choices; giving them the ability to be co-creators in this world by the decisions they make. Though God is all-powerful, God does not exercise that power to coerce us. We are not mindless robots simply performing the tasks we are pre-programmed to—we are fully responsible for the stuff we do and say and think. 

What this means, is that saying God is in control, while doing little or nothing to alter the planet in any meaningful way is spiritual rebellion. It is a willing abdication of our calling to be makers of peace and agents of goodness and bringers of justice here. It expects that God will clean up whatever horrible mess we make—and that our prayers alone will serve as the sole request form.

I don’t believe this is true and it isn’t Biblical. I don’t believe Jesus spent three years imploring people to love their neighbors as themselves, to feed the poor, to protect the vulnerable, to love our enemies, and to bind up wounds of strangers—if God had already written the script and we’re all just playing the whole thing out in flesh and blood without getting to improvise and change lines.

And this all matters, because if we are indeed free to choose and responsible for our choices, and these decisions make tangible ripples in the world—then we had better get to work, Christians.

And that means far more than thoughts and prayers platitudes.

In the face of injustice, praying for God to move while remaining stationary isn’t admirable—it’s cowardice. It’s looking around at the frightened, hurting, wounded people in our midst and shooting up a quick 911 call to the Almighty and continuing on with our day, instead of rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty by stopping other people’s bleeding.

God is love.
God is good.
God is powerful.
But God is not forceful and God is not magic.
God works through the hands and words of the people who aspire to this love and goodness, and choose to exercise the individual power they have been entrusted with right where they’re standing.
Jesus is not beamed down from Heaven, he is incarnated in the flesh and blood of those who believe that other people are worth sacrificing for, that mercy is the greatest gift, that love is revolutionary.
God’s Spirit of redemptive power resides in the breathing churches of we who inhabit this place and seek to be sanctuary for those in pain. 

And right now, the ancient words of St. Francis are still the most dangerous prayer we can ever authentically pray: God, make me an instrument of your peace.

Because the truth, Christians friends: is that God is not in control of you. You are in control of you and God is asking you to be goodness and love in a way that tangibly changes the story we all find ourselves in. God is asking you what you’re willing to do to bring healing and cease pain and show compassion.

Your move.







265 thoughts on “Christian, Stop Telling Me God is in Control

  1. Amen, Amen, John!
    Thank you, as always, for your stand.

    My reaction:

    As a Player in this Earth Game;
    With a Body, as well as Power, Volition, Choice…
    to BE and to ACT in this Physical World.

    I am oft asking:
    What Game am I playing?
    Whose Game am I playing?
    How is it Going?
    What are the results?

        • It’s always lovely to find a kindred spirit who can help to soothe another’s soul.

          You’ve definitely blessed me as well.

      • Lynn,
        I am having a convo about John’s blog on my Facebook, in response to a question, i wrote this – maybe useful too – IDK : )
        Feel free to ignore – in life! Wendy

        Here is my perspective:

        Spiritually we are in contact with God, we are filled with God, we are ONE with God.
        Meanwhile, on Earth in bodies – in this physical reality, if anything is gonna get done, the ones with bodies are gonna be doing it.

        Jesus saw Abba Doing and Jesus Did.
        Jesus heard Abba Speaking and Jesus Spoke.

        Jesus, in the body
        was being and doing God’s will on Earth,
        as it is/was already in Heaven.

        For ME
        I mean to play this Earth Game, Like Jesus did = with God.

        I believe Jesus, and we,
        to do this
        we must play our OWN Game
        Be Captain of our OWN Ship/Life.

        WHEN we are Captain of our OWN Ship/Life:
        When the Admiral (Abba) says – I need you to sail over here and do xxx.; we CAN Choose to go do xxx (or not 😉

        BUT, when we are Not Captain of our OWN Ship/Life:
        we are oft washed away by:
        – every wind that blows,
        – every feeling we feel,
        – every thought we think,
        – every desire, impulse, instinct, drive our body may have,
        – every judgment someone throws at us…
        the old Baptists used to say: the world, the flesh and the devil – any of that could be in charge, if spiritually, I am not.

        SO when the Admiral (Abba) says – I need you to sail over here and do xxx.;
        Rarely CAN we actually Choose to go do xxx – certainly not in any kind of expeditious manner.

        Being able to CHOOSE to play our own game,
        makes us available to play God’s Game, here on earth.

        Of course, we learn by playing.
        Trusting that spiritually:
        we are already loved,
        we are already precious children of God,
        we are already seated spiritually in Heavenly places…

        We are free and encouraged to Just PLAY!
        And thereby mature into BEing the Captain in this world (that we already are spiritually)
        My honey Michael likes to say: All Mammals Learn By Playing!

        : ) Wendy

        • Thank you Wendy! You have blessed me, and it is so nice to find a kindred spirit who soothes another’s soul.

          Peace to you,

  2. God is always in control. Yes he controls elections, football scores, and the weather. If you are a Bible believing Christian you certainly know this through His word. However, you and I may not always like what is happening in our world, never, ever think God is not aware because he most certainly is.

    • Ditto to you too Don.
      (See above comment to Mr. Catholic)
      It gives me hope to see that not everyone has indulged in John P’s stupidity laced kool-aid!
      May the lord be with you!

  3. Mr. Catholic,
    Well spoken and thoughtful words, unlike the majority of the reckless comments spewed on this site by veiled atheists who espouse the heretical idea that somehow God lost control of his own creation!
    Bravo good man.

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  5. Great statement at the end: You are in control of you and God is asking you to be goodness and love in a way that tangibly changes the story we all find ourselves in. God is asking you what you’re willing to do to bring healing and cease pain and show compassion.

    I hear God is in control all of the time. I believe that is true. I also believe that such a statement becomes a vacuous truth that justifies recklessness.

  6. Thank you for your comments. I am one of those people who says that God is in control but not for the reasons you state above. I think that I speak for most people that when I refer to God being in control it is to calm my fears. I do not need to be afraid because God is in control. It helps me to be brave and determined. Then I can continue to do my work as a Christ follower. Doing His work of serving and helping wherever I can. Joanna

  7. God planning thing and people being responsible for the things God has planned go together. They are not opposites. E.g. Jesus’ death. When Jesus was put to death on the cross, those who did it did exactly what God’s “power and will had decided beforehand should happen. (Acts 4:28). God was “in control”. But God being “in control” did not diminish the responsibility of the people who killed Jesus. They are still described as “wicked men” (Acts 2:23) morally responsible for what they did. The Bible teaches that God can plan what is going to happen and yet people are still responsible for the wicked things they do.

    So, I think it is wrong to say that God is not in control.

    However, it is also wrong to think that God being in control means that everything is going to be nice. God being in control could mean that he raises up a president who has no regard for truth as an act of judgement on western civilization which has been saying for years that there is no such thing as truth.

    • Well said, Kevin!! One thing we tend to forget in an argument like this is that God exists outside of time. He knows the whole story from beginning to end and therefore he is most certainly in control because, although we have free will, he knows ahead of time how we will react to a particular circumstance and will intervene now and then when he desires the story to move in a certain direction.

  8. Consider this. God did not create robots, there is no purpose in that. God would want a person/soul that comes to him by his own free will. (Thus the process of the first and second resurrections). If God wanted predestined robots there would no point in going through this process we call life.

    But that treatise is easy for me since the bible was a convoluted series of stories, albeit great stories. I can only imagine where our civilizations would be today had all the silly religious wars and practices not held us back.

    Her is a great way to look at it. If today, there was no record of a religious past or the ‘Big bang theory’, we would go to the scientific explanation of existence. That is interesting because of the tools we have, we can explain things as opposed to creating mystical mumbo jumbo, like declaring the world is flat and the sun and stars revolve around the earth, etc.

  9. I can understand what the author when he talks about the freedom of will every man has and that God cannot force us to do something. But I think what the author is missing is that our choices is not just about doing good or doing evil. What the author is driving is that,we, as humans can control our actions and be good just by our choices alone. And that, my friend, is what the enemy want us to think. No one is good. There is only one that is good. And we can’t be good without Him. Hence, and as what the Bible is saying, we should deny ourselves, repent our sins, accept Christ, pray for and be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide us in everything we do. I’m repeating here, we cannot be good just by ourselves. So, where does our freedom of will lies?We have to chose the leading of the Holy Spirit everyday. God bless.

  10. These theological questions and understandings have been wrestled with throughout history. And for good reason, as the outworking in our lives goes back to these basic belief systems.
    Might be that one way to look at this and grow in our understanding, is to refrain from using a blanket statement, that God is or isn’t in control. How do we define control? Does it mean micromanagement and determination of every last decision on earth? Or does it look more like influence, supervision and determination of the ultimate plan? Could the All powerful, First and Last, Eternal Creator also choose to limit certain decisions and realms of authority and choices to entrust them to His creation? Is it possible that He has recognized the incredible value and amazing possibilities, as well as risk…by setting the course of the universe in this way? Does it somehow make Him less powerful that He is not sitting with the video game controllers deciding and forging every move, every moment, and every decision?
    To pull individual scriptures out of the Bible, place them in an order that makes sense to us and build a theology that God is a certain way, can be damaging and dangerous. These ideas do have consequences in how we live, how we perceive our role on the earth, our realm of responsibility and the incredible portion we have been entrusted with, as His beloved children. Do we as dearly beloved and chosen children enter into the good works that are prepared for us? Do we apply faith and with patience enter into our inheritance? In studying the Bible and how God has worked and interacted throughout history…looking at the whole counsel of God, revealed through His word, and crying out to not only know the acts of God, but also His ways…there is overwhelming evidence that God neither ultimately ‘controls’ all aspects of His creation, nor is He in any way deficient in His power, authority or overall plan. For some, this thought is too scary, or maybe the idea puts a sense of too much responsibility upon us. Or maybe we have simply assumed or believed certain things, without looking a bit deeper.
    Does God rule over all? Yes, indeed! Has He turned over a big portion of authority to us? You had better believe it…and the living out of this has enormous consequences in these days that we live in. Will we be a generation that enters into our inheritance, or because of faulty thinking and unbelief shrink back from the promises of God and His inheritance? Much to ponder, and much is at stake. What a mighty, awesome, wise, loving, just, holy, true, merciful, mind-blowing God we serve!

    • Sheyap,

      Thank you for this: “Might be that one way to look at this and grow in our understanding, is to refrain from using a blanket statement, that God is or isn’t in control.”

      There is so much that cannot be defined or understand if we use only one word or phrase with scripture pulled from here and there. When I think of how biblical scholars and theologians have examined, reexamined these concepts, I rest a bit easier knowing there is not one right answer.


  11. John, I’m sorry, but while I understand your point, much of what you say violates orthodox theology and our understanding of God’s sovereignty. God is always in control, at every moment, and nothing escapes is will (what he allows to happen). And, absolutely, we have several biblical examples of God exercising coercion to bring about specific outcomes. He ABSOLUTELY has veto power over free-will whether he regularly exercises it or not. Please be careful what you suggest as you have an a specific audience that hangs on your every word in spite of what the Bible says.

    • That’s really not the point, Aaron. When I say something about how awful it is that war is happening or a toddler dies after being run over by his father, to hear “God is in control” does not help. UNLESS it is the grieving parent who says it. If I am crumbling in front of you and I am simply searching for care, compassion and/or understanding, a hug, a simple “It’s awful isn’t it?” will do more for me than “God is in control,” because for me at that moment, God is not.

      The whole concept of theodicy is very real, how can God be all loving and all powerful while bad things are happening in the world. Theologians have been studying, hashing and rehashing this concept for centuries. It’s not an easy one. My personal take on theodicy has changed over the years. I’m glad we can have different views. I can accept yours for you, but not for me. That means I will respect you as long as you or others do not push your views on me.

      There is much to be learned and I’m sure I will be at this until I die.

      • Lynn, it absolutely is part of the point because John makes it a part of the point in the words he uses. You can’t have it both ways. Lynn, I understand the point that it’s not helpful to some to hear those words. So say that, and only that, instead of infusing in incorrect theology…

    • Aroaron, You also earn a bravo with just a few others on this site who realize without any doubt that God is ALWAYS in control. Period. He may work thru us by giving us the the opportunity to serve Him for OUR benefit,… but he doesn’t NEED our help for anything, ever. He is always completely independent. And NO… He is not playing like Almighty Bruce…. overwhelmed by prayers etc. He has set the world up to run on it’s own to respond to our behaviors based on how well we either comply or defy his instructions.
      In any case not many people on this blog seem to understand this very fundamental point and that’s not just sad…it’s scary that there as so many who say the believe in God, but apparently think he lost control of his own creation. dats really warped reasoning! Something the Atheists say! Bravo to you cause you got it right! -md

  12. Thanks again, John.
    Our problem is often that we don’t use the heads God has given us. Every parent knows that eventually, we have no control at all over our children. And more to the point, the more we control them, or try to, the more we kill the love relationship. Control is the opposite of LOVE. We rarely can have both, at least, for any amount of time. To think of a God of Love being a Controlling God is just crazy. Yet, we try to juggle both. It doesn’t work.
    The story of ‘Adam and Eve’ tells us this. If we’d have the good sense to ask the Jews (they wrote the story, right?) they’ll tell us that in the controlled ‘garden’, the two kids just couldn’t grow in love. In love, God put them in a uncontrolled place where they had to fend for themselves and hence, have a very real chance to grow and understand, even though (like children), they would complain and yearn for a ‘perfect’ life where they wouldn’t have to do a thing. (Don’t we make our ‘heaven’ into just this kind of place?)
    No, I’m with you. Being controlled by God just doesn’t make any sense. Not if we assume a loving God. For better or worse, I’ll put my money and life on LOVE. Those who count on God’s control are wasting their lives, even though I sometimes envy their ability to be concerned about only the most trivial.

  13. Marilyn Nelson, in a poem-
    “Abba Jacob said:
    There’s a big difference between
    the mentalities of magic and of alliance.
    People who spend their lives searching for God have a magical mentality:
    They need a sign, a proof,
    a puff of smoke, an irrefutable miracle.
    People who have an alliance mentality
    know God by loving.”

  14. I believe in God, but do not believe he is a puppeteer. I don’t understand, though I want to, how peopleperceive a world without a creator, without One more powerful and eternal than humanity. I personally need that belief and humility to keep me balanced. Some things are possible for me, others not. I believe God has the power to control, but does not do so. This makes me responsible for my life, for others, for the earth, for creatures, for time, for use of that which has been given to me. I think the discussion demonstrates that there is indeed a fine line. If you want to pass the buck, sit back and absolve yourselves with saying, “God Is In Control. ” That just sounds like Greco-Roman mythology to me. I’d rather be in this discomfort zone than accede to that attitude.

    • Patricia,
      I agree with you completely about preferring residence in the land of questioning and discomfort than one of platitudes. Your response gives me comfort. Thank you.

      Whether G_d has the power to control and chooses not to do so, or is without power, or even without existence, I rest easier in knowing that men and women have pondered these questions for time eternal. Theodicy is a difficult one.

  15. Perhaps people say “relax, God’s in control” because they DO NOT want to get all bogged down in a political argument with YOU. I don’t “regret” my vote, at all and the implication that, suddenly, pain and suffering is worse, because of my vote just makes me want to turn and run away from any discussion with you. I’m very active living the life Jesus called me to, thank you very much. Bless your heart.

  16. The God you are all debating doesn’t exist. Nor do the Gods of any other religions. They are all the biggest scam ever put over on the human race, and the cause of more pain, suffering, war and death than any other reason.

  17. God DOES exit, no question. Once I would have been as dogmatic about his non-existence as you are until God showed up in my life uninvited in a profoundly supernatural way that defied all rational explanation. He’s been doing that now on a regular basis for the last twenty years. True faith in Him is not founded on some theological debate but on real supernatural experience of Him and His love and guidance on a regular basis. God is real, as real as anything in my life. Has “religion” caused suffering, war etc. Absolutely! But what needs to be understood, and isn’t, is that doing things in God’s name under the banner of Christianity doesn’t make the perpetrators Christian. A belief in the existence of God doesn’t make one a Christian. A further more radical step is necessary. The Crusades were carried out in God’s name but I have no doubt that those involved were not Christian. En masse, Christians would not be capable of such atrocities. Many such crimes are laid at the feet of Christians but if people really understood what makes a person a Christian, they would realise that the crimes were not carried out by Christians but those choosing to do them in God’s name . . . a very different matter.

  18. This article mentions the obedient act of doing good works for other people and that’s commendable.

    But God IS in control and our first act as fledgling Christians should be to acknowledge that fact and obediently strive to follow all of Christ’s commands. We will stumble and fall. We will damage our own testimony at times. But obedience must be the foremost thing we strive for.

    Feeding the poor and helping the weak is what will result from obedience to Christ’s many commands. He commanded far more than loving each other. He demanded cheerful giving, respect for all human life (how many of the people calling out the “Evangelical right” on this blog are pro-choice?), sexual morality, proper treatment of the temple of God (our bodies), fiscal responsibility, living within our means, giving of ourselves in every way possible.

    When enough of a society is Christian and a majority of those Christians follow all of Christ’s commands, the poor will be fed and the weak will be nurtured. Families won’t crumble due to financial or sexual reasons (these two account for a vast majority of family splits). Drugs won’t run rampant.

    God can only be in control when we obey His commands. Chastising other Christians who strive to first: obey and second: produce results, is not one of God’s commands. Having unreasonable faith is. Vocalizing that “God is in Control” is an act of faith, not a bandaid on a problem. It’s also a phrase that only bothers those who don’t have faith.

  19. John,

    You are right that we should not use of this as a cliche and well said for challenging people to get off their backsides and help those in need. If I meet a someone in need of food then the right thing to do is give them some food. It is not enough to simply say “God is in control”. We need to SHOW love and compassion. That is the heart of the command to love thy neighbour.

    But I do find the reality that God is in control comforting. There are times when I feel powerless to help someone either because the problem is beyond my expertise or because they are too far away geographically. This is the case with some of my friends that I pray for regularly. And even those I can actively support, I still pray for them. If we have no freedom then God is a monster responsible for every act of violence and wickedness on the planet. If God is not in ultimate control then we are all doomed by that wickedness and violence. God is love and he is just. We need to hold all these truths in balance.

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    • I believe we all have free will, I believe it is one of God’s greatest gifts to us – but, most of us have given it away, squandered it, lost it…

      We can get it back. But, we have to spiritually choose to, and spiritually act to get it back.

      Blessings, Wendy

  21. Great summary of what I independently come up with myself. After a six month struggle regarding free will and God’s sovereignty, I came up with a conclusion that God is not in control of everything that is consistent with the Bible and logical.

    God controls through divine intervention at times, but rarely. He simply does not control our actions because we have free will, not just partial free will. It is the independent free will of people that is the source of bad things caused by people.

    Take suicide for example. Is it God’s will plan for people to commit suicide? What I always hear is “God is good” and “God has a plan” for it. Suicide cannot be God’s will or plan. To argue that is to imply God is not good, which is incorrect. Another perspective is suicide is good because God willed it. Again, that’s not an acceptable argument. Suicide is possible by pure free will. It happens in the world and it’s bad. However, God can make good come out of it.

    God works in this world by speaking to people. However, God’s work usually only happens through people that obey him. He has given us the rules in the Bible and may also speak to us individually through prayer and meditation on his word. No one is perfect like Jesus, so no one has fully obeyed God.

  22. Great post – explains complex matters in a straight forward way. God, with full foreknowledge and control of the final outcome, is a delegator of and self limiting in his sovereignty in order to give us the responsibility of free will. The challenge for Christians, living in an evil world, is how we choose to exercise our free in a manner glorifying to God. Jesus told us, “in this life, there will be troubles but He has overcome.” So we can expect bad things to happen to us, even though he is in control of our final destiny. So glad he did not create me a predetermined predestined robot.

  23. Thank you, John. You’re too kind to call it a dumpster fire. It’s more like an out of control wildfire.

    Most American Evangelicals voted for a man who is the antithesis of the Christian faith. Predictably, he has acted consistently with his revealed character and done incredible damage to the country and the world. Of course, people are frightened, as they would and should be during a wildfire.
    Now the same people who brought this calamity on us say, “Relax! God is in control”.
    It sounds pious, but they’re blaming God for their bad choices. You who voted for Trump hurt all of us. When are you going to admit it, and quit using God as your excuse?

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