26 Apr Not Designed To Control But To Trust
The recent unexpected COVID-19 pandemic reminds me of a passage in <Ecclesiastes 9>:
11 I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
12 Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
that fall unexpectedly upon them.
Indeed, life is full of unpredictable events; perhaps it is sudden financial downturn, or unexpected illnesses like the current COVID-19, etc. Because of unforeseen changes, our plans are all frustrated. Nobody likes to be out of control. But what if the lack of control actually leads to our blessing instead? In fact, humans’ lack of control can be an opportunity for divine grace to shine into our lives.
Man’s favorable conditions do not guarantee his success and wellbeing.
The Bible lists out 5 advantageous conditions of man, these are what people of the world go after: being swift, strong, wise, brilliant and learned. Sometimes, people think we have to be swiftly decisive or we may lose out, but here it says that being fast may not win the race. The common thought is we need to be strong in order to win the tough competition among the many rivals in the market, but the Bible tells us that the strong may not always be the winner. Moreover, those who are wise and brilliant may not be the richest; a person’s intelligence does not guarantee that he will always have food on the table and will never be poor. And indeed, not all those who are learned and knowledgeable are valued or favoured by others. Despite having all these advantages, blessings are still not guaranteed. Of course, this is not to say that we should not strive to be swift, strong and wise. But we need to seek something which offers more guarantee than these. The emphasis here is that man himself cannot control his destiny, no matter how remarkable a person is.
The two things which man cannot control are: Time and Chance <v11>.
<Verse 12> tells us that “no one knows when their hour will come”. Indeed, we do not know, nor can we decide, when we will leave this world or how much time we are left with. No matter how grand a person’s dreams and plans are, or how capable he is to achieve his goals, if he does not have time, all will be in vain. No matter how wise or rich a person is, he cannot control his time nor his chance encounters, just as the whole world is now “trapped by (COVID-19) that falls unexpectedly upon us”. Only when a person comes to terms with this reality, then he will not over-rely on his own intelligence, but will realise his need for God, for divine power outside of man himself.
While humans lack control, God is in control.
Nothing is a “chance” event in God’s eyes, but everything happens according to His will and sovereignty. <Proverbs 16:33> “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” <Proverbs 19:21> “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Even in seemingly undesirable events, God is able to turn it around for the good of His people and His glory (cf. <Ro 8:28>). The truth is, our times and lives are all in the hands of God. One of my favourite verses reminds us of our unquestionable dependence on God:
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Man is not created to be in control, but to submit to His Creator.
Humans do not like uncertainties because it takes away their ability to be in control. However, the reason why God did not give humans the power to control everything is so that we will not be proud and only rely on ourselves. We desire to control because of our need for security. Yet, the greatest security is actually found in God. In fact, our loving God wants to give us something even better than control, and that is, God Himself! The power to control comes with much stress; we may fear making the wrong decisions; or we may have the control but lose precious relationships in the course of exerting that control. Besides, it is a delusion for any human being to be able to have full control. As much as we wish to have it, it is just beyond our reach. Yet, by the grace of God, it is possible for us to have Him, who is in control of all things. For Christians, just knowing that God is in control and that He loves us and will not fail us, is enough to give us rest. When we want to have control yet cannot secure it, we will feel frustrated and lost, but when we surrender ourselves to God and trust in His guidance, we can then enjoy true serenity and deep confidence.
Brothers and sisters, although we cannot control unforeseen uncertainties, we can control our response to uncertainties. Even as the whole world wobbles on the uncertainty of COVID-19, we can find rest by trusting in the Lord. Yes, being vulnerable humans, it is hard to find peace when we are not sure of our future. Yet, God does not want us to build our peace on the foundation of “known, or good outcomes”, but He wants the foundation of our peace to be He Himself. We cannot control time and chance, but God determines both our time and our encounters. Importantly, He is also a God who loves us and has mercy on those who trust in Him. May our lack of control make us realise our need for the God who is in control!