God is in control.

I bet you have heard that one a lot lately. Hurricane Irma has inspired many reassuring memes about how we only need to put our trust in God. But what will God do for you if you suddenly find yourself in the path of a hurricane?

Most Christians do understand that faith and prayer will not save anyone’s life. Sure, there will be stories. “Praise God for intervening and saving my life.” Meanwhile, others are not so lucky, and it doesn’t add up. Why can’t the Christian see this? Well, most can. They know that God could have just as easily picked them for death, but he didn’t. And they are, understandably, grateful.

They are not comforted because their belief played some role in sparing their life; they are searching for comfort because they need to believe there is a reason for it. They need to know someone is in control and knows the reason. Even if they, themselves, can never understand.

But when Christians claim that God saved them as an answer to prayer, they are just as misguided as those who claim that hurricanes have been sent as punishment. Even by Christian standards, this type of thinking presumes to know the mind of God, and should be frowned upon. After all, God offers no guarantees for this life. None. A believer’s risk of sorrow, illness, and death are the same as anyone else. On that we must all agree. And no matter how much a Christian claims to know about the details of God, we must also all agree that he is nothing if not mysterious.

So what is the point of praying if it can’t help you? Well, it offers comfort to those who need there to be a purpose. Christians believe there is a God in control, with a plan, and that it is a personal God who directs every detail of our lives and knows our thoughts. To them, this life is nothing compared to an eternity that will be spent with this God; so the only thing that matters in this life is that we are following his will. Christians believe we have been given free will to choose whether or not to follow that plan. How do we do that, exactly? Well, one of the best ways is through prayer.

Prayer not only solidifies that comforting belief that a higher power is in control, but it also allows believers to submit to God’s will. It’s the heart of any good prayer. If a Christian feels “right with God,” then they believe anything that happens to them is part of God’s plan. Prayer is kind of like a bottle of Liquid Luck. There is nothing to fear. For Christians, it makes no sense to fear anything that happens with God’s approval. There is only reason to fear that which happens to us because we stopped listening to God.

Religion is all about feeding the comforting feeling that everything happens for a reason, and this is all leading to something else.

If there is one difference I see over and over again between believers and non believers, it is their feelings about something bigger than us being in control. Take away all the dogma, and this remains. Some of us cannot even fathom the horror of a world where there is no ultimate bigger purpose, with something greater overseeing things from above; and some of us have no feelings at all about the randomness. It appears to be the most obvious answer, and they have no trouble with that thought. I have no trouble with that thought.

The internet was quite critical of Kirk Cameron’s words on Hurricane Irma:

This is a spectacular display of God’s power. And when he puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose. And we may not always understand what that purpose is, but we know it’s not random. And we know that weather is sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe, and repentance.”

Spoken like a true believer. I don’t know why he would think anything else. Granted, that last part about knowing why God sends weather is a bit presumptuous, but I imagine that is just his method of keeping God a friendly God in his mind. It’s not as if God is showing up on CNN to explain.

So while we roll our eyes at some of the memes in our news feeds this weekend, and continue to make the joke about empty truckloads of prayers and thoughts…the need to believe something is in control is stronger than ever. Fear is at the heart of it, but fear will also strengthen faith. Even if the results are meaningless and empty. If God is in control, all of this means something big, right? I suspect God’s reasons, as usual, will remain a mystery.


2 thoughts on “Are Thoughts and Prayers Helping?

  1. I’m new here. I’m still uncomfortable in this state of life after doubt, but I’m guessing I’m here to stay. That said, this entry felt cheeky to me, at least compared to the more honest entries of the past.

    Picking on believers for seeing Providence in how Harvey hit them or spared them is a bit too predictable. Believers and non-believers alike can find trends and connections in various events and ascribe their own explanations as to why things played out the way they did, often without reproach.

    What struck me at church on Sunday (I haven’t yet given up gathering with a body of believers), was the connection and camaraderie and comfort shared by all in coming together in body or spirit or talent to support those in need. There was a spirit in the sanctuary that took me back to the days when I would have bet money that the God of the Bible was who many believe he is.

    Seemed pretty real to this backslider. I’m still trying to find some middle ground.

    1. It does seem as if I am picking on believers for finding meaning in how they were hurt or spared. It’s hard to avoid. It all comes back to what I said about the difference I keep seeing between believers and non-believers when it comes to needing there to be something bigger in control.

      Hit or spared, the believer will find hope and meaning in their situation by accepting it as an intentional action from something bigger than themselves. On the other hand, someone like me finds more comfort in the randomness of it; rather than believing those individuals were hand-picked. Whichever way we choose to look at it, the results are the same. Right? And there is no reason this should impact our ability to come together and support one another.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

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