If I type into Google’s search bar, “If God is good…” Google will finish my search with the following suggestions:
...Why is there suffering?
...why do bad things happen?
...why is there evil?
These questions reveal something sad and devastating— most Google users, which means pretty much everyone, believe a lie about the nature of God. The lie? God is in control.
In my early twenties, I had a conversation with a co-worker friend who wanted to know about my faith. This girl didn’t know Jesus; she didn’t know about his always-good love. So I told her about him. I spoke with passion and power. She listened raptly, wanting and needing to believe me. I could see it in her eyes.
But then she asked me the question. It’s the question Google gets all the time: “If God is good, why do bad things happen?”
She wasn’t asking to be confrontational. She was sincere. It was clearly a question she had agonized over. It seemed to me she was desperate for an answer. She wanted to believe that a good God loved her.
I had no answer. In fact, if I’d been truly honest, I was conflicted with the same question. But I responded the same way many well-meaning Christians have when faced with the question.
“God is in control,” I said.
Then I continued with the sledgehammer of misunderstood scripture, saying, “and He works all things for good” (Rom. 8:8).
It was meant to be comforting. It wasn’t. My answer was anemic at best, destructive at worst. And I knew it. Something wasn’t lining up.
She looked utterly disappointed, a heavy weight crushing her soul. I watched her shift from hope to sorrow and then anger.
“I can’t follow a God who allows child abuse!” She said with force. She described the darkest evil this world knows, and I felt her confused and angry grief like a fist to the jaw.
I think somewhere along the way she experienced the devastating horror of a broken fallen world, and I had just told her a good and loving God was responsible for it. My attempt to share God’s good love had only cemented her resistance to Him.
Even though I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, I instinctively knew my answer contradicted my premise. There was disparity in the idea that God is in control and God is good.
At the time, I had a misunderstanding regarding God’s nature, his sovereignty. I believed God was in control.
The premise that God is in control can’t help but raise the Google questions—then why does He allow evil, suffering, and bad things?
That premise forced me to bend scripture to redefine his “working all things to good.” A good God who wants control of our lives and will partner with evil to get it; a good God who will compromise our freedom by manipulating evil circumstances to gain our affections; a good God who will allow love to be distorted and perverted to capitalize on our needs; a good God who is an accessory to murder, starvation, sickness, and poverty so that we would know He loves us...
Or in the case of my friend, a good God who would allow child abuse so He can work it all for good.
This contradiction to His nature is of epic proportions. It can’t be further from the truth. God is either good or He is in control; it can’t be both.
God is not in control. God is Love.
The premise that God is in control manipulates his nature into something contrary to love. There are no manipulations, no ulterior motives, no compromises; He is always good, He loves us and wants us to live powerfully free and in all the authority He won for us through his death and resurrection.
For centuries, much of the church has defined God’s sovereignty through the premise of control. I want to define it the way Jesus revealed it—as Love. Jesus revealed that Love has all authority and that every control of need was answered in the authority of Love.
God is love, and that’s what makes Him sovereign.
Love redeems, restores, heals, empowers, and transforms. Love trumps every controlling need this fallen world and the enemy of our souls throw at us. Love is the answer to disappointment, devastation, and abuse. Love empowers freedom to choose to be loved, to trust love, and to become love.
If I could talk to my co-worker friend today, I would apologize for how I misrepresented God’s nature. I would challenge the premise. I would tell her that God is not in control; Love doesn’t operate that way. I would tell her that God has nothing to do with the evils of this world or the devastation of sin. I would tell her He plays no part in the destruction of humanity.
I would tell her God is love and His love is always good. Always.
Then, I would tell her of the wonder of Jesus’ love, a Love that “works all things to good.” Not because Love controls, but because Love has all authority, relentlessly redeems, always restores, and powerfully resurrects.
I would tell her that Love can be trusted because Love is revealed perfectly in Jesus. I would tell her how Love trumps every disappointment, every evil, and every controlling need.
It is my heart’s desire that someday Google will have a new answer. When asked about the goodness of God, I hope Google will report stories of the church revealing the authority of Love--a love that redeems and restores and miraculously meets every controlling need. May we, the church, discover and live out this love that does not control, that is not against, that does not condemn and works all things for good.
This article is excerpted from Jason's book, God Is (Not) In Control
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, to grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children.