Control, Trust, and Love
“How do I experience God’s love?”
Because I write and speak on the always good love of our heavenly Father, that is a question I am asked often. It’s a question I believe many sons and daughters have wrestled with, particularly in the Western Church where we have had to puzzle out God’s role in the devastation of the most recent Tsunami…
Much of the church has had to navigate the disparity inherent in a theology of sovereign control and punishment. I believe this has birthed a great crisis regarding intimacy with God; we don’t know how to experience His pleasure. We have little access to His good love.
Many of us know the names of God, we know His attributes, we are intellectually certain He loves us, and yet we are not confident in His affection. While we all desire closeness with God, for many, closeness with God is far from a daily, moment by moment experience.
For many, the Christian faith is based more on an acknowledgement of God’s love than an actual encounter. But love goes beyond intellect; love is an emotive experience with a Person.
Have you ever noticed that at least two thirds of the Kingdom can be felt? “For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17)
This scripture in Romans reveals that the Kingdom can be emotionally experienced. Joy and peace are not just theological positions in God; they are also actual felt responses to experiencing His presence.
We are designed to experience God’s presence, His closeness, His affection. He created us for relationship; not a theoretical relationship, but an experiential knowing. We were born to know and be known, to commune with God, to have an honest, true, whole, authentic, affectionate relationship with our Savior and Friend.
It’s called intimacy.
And I would like to propose that much of the church is unable to access this intimacy for one reason. We have a theology of control.
Intimacy and Control
Control can be a good concept when applied to things or situations.
Jason was in control of the car. That’s good.
But control is a broken idea when applied to relationship, it undermines intimacy.
Jason was in control of his wife, his kids, his friends, his parents, his neighbors, his subjects… That’s not good.
Intimacy can’t be experienced in a relationship where one person is controlling the other. Intimacy is only experienced where there is trust. And trust isn’t possible if one of the people in a relationship is controlling.
You can’t have intimacy with someone you can’t trust. And control undermines trust. It is the antithesis of intimacy.
A God-in-control positions humanity in insecurity. It undermines trust in the One who we are most designed to know and trust. Why? Because a God in control is a controlling God.
A theology of sovereign control erodes our ability to trust, making intimacy with God something we are promised but never actually experience.
But Jesus powerfully modeled the way into intimacy by surrendering His very life. Jesus rejected punishment; the very idea behind control.
If we aren’t convinced that God is love and His love is sovereign, perfectly good; if we think God is in control of particular areas of our lives, then we are forced to navigate those areas of our lives outside of intimacy. And it effects everything!
The Subtle Erosions of Control
The theology of sovereign control doesn’t just undermine our faith in God’s good love when facing tsunami-size problems; it subtlety erodes access to trust in our everyday life.
If He is in control, then when we stub our toe, the car needs new brakes and we don’t have the cash, the neighbor doesn’t like us, someone else gets the closer parking space, the dog escapes from the backyard and it’s getting dark and he’s not that bright; even in the subtle context of daily life, we are forced to wrestle over something that is (and should be in our minds) an absolute – the goodness of God. Ultimately our trust is compromised and intimacy is lost.
We are designed to live, move and have our being in the confidence that He is always good – that His love is sovereign. And yet our very misguided definition of His sovereignty undermines our ability to trust in His goodness. Our faith is subverted by our misunderstanding.
But, if we are willing to step away from the flawed narrative of sovereign control and lean into a greater revelation of His love, it opens up for us an opportunity to trust His goodness in ways we have never been able to trust before.
And in this trust, we will begin to know His affection in ways we have never fully known but always longed for. And when we begin to discover His affection truly and fully, we will experience intimacy with God
Jesus came to make us sure. Jesus revealed sovereign love and He came to give us access to intimacy.
You are His favorite, He is pleased with you and He is for you. God can be trusted today with everything, the big stuff and the small, not because He is in control but because His love is always that good.
I pray you experience your Father’s embrace today. I pray grace for breakthrough in your thinking and experience.
Lots of love.
Jason Clark is a writer, speaker and lead communicator at A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage sons and daughters 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.
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