whatever you do, don't say this
“I am the lord.” Sure, you probably never say that out loud. (If you do, you’ve got bigger problems.) How often do I think that I’m running the show, that whatever happens is under my control?
Considering the results of my actions on outcomes seemed to fall in two categories. When I was feeling proud I would think: look at how much I’ve been able to save, think about the degrees earned, look at the projects I’ve worked on, and consider the generations of humanity that it took to get to right here, right now, all to get to - ME. Also, there are plenty of people who want to feed into that, telling us, ‘you can change the world!’
But then when I was scared I would think: my savings just evaporated in the stock market, my degrees don’t mean squat, look at all the times I failed and things didn’t work out as I planned, and if mankind doesn’t obliterate ourselves, then some plague or asteroid will! It seems the same ‘they’ who say you can change the world would tell you when things don’t go according to plan - ‘it is what it is.’ We can err on either side, ascribing outcomes solely to our motivation and might, or conversely saying it doesn’t matter what we do, things will just go the way they always do.
Whether we think that nature or history - or we ourselves - determine our destiny, there is an underlying habit in this generation to discredit God’s active will & work going on in the world.
The prophets warned people over the centuries about this. Here are just a few examples:
“The house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me," declares the LORD. They have lied about the LORD; they said, "He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine.” (Jeremiah 5:11-12 NIV)
“I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." (2Peter 3:2-4 NIV)
“When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you--a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant--then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Deuteronomy 6:10-12 NIV)
“You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 NIV)
“You boast, "We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place."” (Isaiah 28:15 NIV)
Despite the overwhelming evidence that there is so much that is out of our control shaping our experience, voices in the world and in our heads may refuse to consider the hand of God in all this.
Any time we exalt a certain age in time, or hear someone talk about “the arc of history,” when we think progress continues regardless of what people actually do, or that somehow the morals of humanity have evolved over time, to say either God left it to us and is waiting to see what we do, or to say the universe goes on and doesn’t notice whether we behave morally or not - either way, we discredit God’s work, His active will, and we pretend that humanity – we make ourselves - the lords of the universe.
This is important: there is really good news. There IS a God. (and it’s not me! And it’s not you, either.) He’s got a plan that ties all this together, and includes every one of us, beyond the tiniest fragment that we see, temporarily and as from a mirror dimly. Therefore, there is an appropriate response to how life plays out around us, whether according to favor or ill in the moment.
“Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.” (Deuteronomy 4:39-40 NIV)