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Control or Trust?

By Jason Bowman

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ”Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:1-3).

What in the world led to that moment? I have been in a few really uncomfortable situations where someone had to speak a hard reality into my life such as being fired by my boss or scolded by my father when I was young. But can you imagine if it were God on the other end? So, what happened? How did Job get to this point?

If you read the first two chapters of Job in the Old Testament, you will see that Job trusted God: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). However, after days of suffering and the loss of everything but his own life, it all becomes too much and Job moves from trusting God to challenging God and seeking to control his situation.

At a foundational level this happens because Job’s understanding of God and his circumstances do not match. Job believes that if a person does what is right, God will bless that person, but if not, God will curse that person. Job knows he has done what is right (and God states as much in 1:8), so he does not understand why these terrible things are happening to him. That disconnect causes him to stop trusting and try to control whatever he can.

This same thing occurs numerous times in the Bible. When John the Baptist went to prison, he began to doubt that Jesus was the messiah (Matt 11:2-3) even though he watched the Spirit come down on Jesus (John 1:32). When things became heated between Jews and Gentiles, Peter turned away from the truth God revealed to him (Acts 10) and went back to just eating with Jews until Paul confronted him (Gal 2:7-10).

I think we can all relate to turning from trusting to controlling. When our circumstances go haywire and no longer fit within our systems of thought or they are simply more than we can handle, we often have a default mode of trying to control instead of leaning into trusting God.

At the same time, we know there were people in the Bible who went through very difficult circumstances that may have made no sense to them, but they continued to trust. We see this with Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery, but through his entire ordeal, he carried the attitude that God was still working good (Genesis 50:20). We see this with Daniel’s friends who are thrown into a fire by the king, but never lose their trust in God (Daniel 3:16-18).

The apostle Paul provides not only an example of someone who goes through many terrible trials and continues faithfully serving the Lord, but also gives us understanding of how we might continue to trust instead of trying to control. Two things Paul says stand out. First, Paul believes that when he is weak, God is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Rather than fall back into trying to control things when his circumstances are overwhelming, Paul remembers that in his weakness, God is actually strong. Secondly, Paul has an extremely powerful belief in God’s total love for him and God’s good will towards him out of that love (Romans 8:28-39). Paul continues to trust because he knows God is strong when Paul is weak, and he lives out of a complete belief in God’s love and good will for him.

Control is easier than trust, but we know that control ultimately fails. Job learned to trust again and so can we when we find ourselves trying to control instead of trusting. We can remember what we learn from Paul and others in the Scripture. When we lean into God completely, we can know his strength and find peace in his love and his good will towards us.

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