“God is in control.” Christians repeat this phrase to each other often. But what do we mean when we say this? God being in control is another way of talking about God’s will or what God wants. Does God get what He wants? If He does, how? If He doesn’t, why? Such questions immediately re-frame the whole discussion about God being in control. Often, when Christians talk of God being in control, it is in reference to what we want or hope for. Anytime we are in the midst of change or crisis, there are certain outcomes we would prefer and others we would rather avoid. At such times, we comfort ourselves and others by saying, “God is in control,” because we assume God shares our desires and is working to conform circumstances to our expectations. It is hard for us to question whether what we hope for is actually what God wants. This is because it is ingrained in us that what God wants, God gets. We are afraid to think that He might want something different from us because, chances are, going down that road won’t lead to the place we expect.
This assumption—that what we view as good is also godly—breeds untold confusion and heartache. We pray for something we want or for a situation to turn out a certain way. We don’t get what we ask for or things go a way that is completely against our liking. What do we conclude? Not that God has something else in mind. Not that we should find out what He wants instead of asking for what we want. Instead, when God chooses something other than what we expect, we doubt He exists. We doubt His goodness. We doubt He loves us. We rub salt in our wounds. Disappointment is hard enough without believing we are disappointed because God ignores us, doesn’t care about us, or simply isn’t there. We could spare ourselves some additional pain by questioning ourselves instead of God. But at bottom, we are so convinced that we know best it is almost incomprehensible to question ourselves. Doubting God is much easier than doubting ourselves.