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I Want God More Than Control

I Want God More Than Control

God has set Eternity in our heart, and man’s infinite capacity cannot be filled or satisfied with the things of time and sense. ~ F. B. Meyer

Back when we had permed hair and were twentysomething vibrant, we used to talk about how we hoped God would never send us as missionaries to Africa.

My best friend and I recently revisit this twenty-year-old conversation: how while we walked the halls of a seminary where we studied God, we secretly feared a call on our lives that would make us do something radical and hard. Now, on one hand, we cringe at this. We want to judge it and call it ignorance or selfishness or being really young or thinking life was just up to us, but then we step back, pause, and get honest.

Were we really that different from most believers? We say we want God but sit with fingers crossed behind our backs, hoping He will never ask us to do something too sacrificial.

The truth is that our fear was never really about Africa. Africa just represented something that was unknown. Africa got blamed for what was really a small faith — a mindset whereby we could love God but never let that love interrupt our plan for a beautiful house, a handsome husband, three kids, a dog or two, manicured nails, church on Sunday, and cute jeans. It was never about Africa. It was about wanting life both ways.

Somewhere in the midst of the daily whirlwind of life, we have convinced ourselves that we can live in the in-between when it comes to God. We are convinced we can make our faith what we want it to be — customize it like we do with food at restaurants, ordering faith to fit our tastes. But when we become followers of Christ, we don’t get to make up the script.

It’s either all God or no God, He says.

I think of the church at Laodicea and feel akin. If I’m honest, I also feel scared and convicted. God is always blunt and to the point. But these verses are awakeners of a different kind.

I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking. You’re not cold, you’re not hot — far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit.Revelation 3:15–16 MSG

The idea that I could make God want to vomit chills me to the bone.

But I am the church at Laodicea. We are the church at Laodicea. We may be hotter than we are cold, less stale and stagnant than we used to be, and, indeed, we should be grateful for the forward progress. But God doesn’t compare us to ourselves as the measuring stick. He compares us to Him.

Our desire for control — for logic, for reason, for that which makes sense to us — is one of the biggest factors in why we don’t have more of God. It’s not that God is displeased with our logic or that we shouldn’t seek spiritual understanding through the studying of Scripture. In fact, this is the essence of spiritual growth: we want more of God the more we know Him. But if we truly want God, the piece that must be abandoned is our demand for logic. We have to want Him more than what we can understand, since intellect gets in the way of unvarnished love. When we demand that God make sense, we overstep our role and show our sense of entitlement. In life God calls us to scary places we can’t understand, and we must have an open heart of faith to take the leap with Him. We must come as children who know and care nothing of formulas, calculations, and risk. That is faith. That is what makes a Father glad.

  • Life with God was never meant to be a calculated risk; it was meant to be an illogical surety.

Logical people are at risk of stepping in the way of the supernatural. We don’t mean to — it’s just that often there’s a core incompatibility between what is known (tangible, flesh, earth) and the Unknown (God), and when we choose logic, it hinders His work. Don’t misunderstand — God doesn’t need us to understand to do His thing. He can work under any conditions, at any time, in any way. But whether we submit to His working is in our hands.

He wanted us to choose things and see things and experience things from a free will and open heart. Otherwise He would have created robots to simply do His bidding. But He didn’t. Because He is God, a part of Him will always be unknown to us as humans with limited minds. Yet so much of Him can be known by way of Scripture, experience, the heart, the mind, and the senses. We don’t need logic and reason to know we love and trust God.

And while logic feels good because it is a controllable entity, God often calls us to the illogical and unreasonable places to expose what position control holds in our life. He calls us to the things we fear because they’re foreign and require sacrifice. The things we don’t want to face because they seem too hard.

I wonder: What is your Africa?

It took twenty-five years, but my best friend finally met hers. It started with a simple phone call, a “simple” inquiry about foster children in her county who needed a home, but it really started before that. The heart change had to come first, and did. It started seven years before with a trip to Colorado for couples struggling in their marriage. She went with her husband, fighting long-held private struggles. But she came back herself having changed. My best friend wasn’t the same best friend when she came back. She was a better version of the same one I loved. Something inside of her had met God in a different way in those Colorado mountains — something that made her more God-hungry than ever before. She was just... different.

So I wasn’t completely surprised when she called me a few years later to tell me the news. “We’re going to look deeper into foster care, Lisa. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. I just feel pulled to do this and I can’t explain why.”

I didn’t need her to explain. I knew from my own life that wanting God means doing things that move His heart — which we want to do. People will no longer have to pitch us on God-causes; our heart for Him compels us to pursue them.

And I knew this, too — that God doesn’t typically ready us in ways we think work best and look best to others. He readies us on the inside when we can’t see it ourselves. (It’s a myth to think we will ever be ready for anything that is a God-sized undertaking. We can position ourselves but can never fully prepare.) My friend would never be ready to do foster care. But she was already ready to do it because of her desire for Him.

She’d done some form of foster care for many years, but I remember her first two years as a foster mom well. Many phone calls where she cried in frustration because it was hard and heartbreaking. Many moments when she felt like she wasn’t enough. I would tell her I loved her but offered little more than that because I just couldn’t help like God. She was bitten and spat on, and held children deep into the night while they told her they heard voices. She was in way over her head, way “underqualified” for the things she could and would tell me about. My little khaki-wearing friend became a woman who walked in and out of jails and spoke to the courts like an expert, without batting an eye. She loved her foster kids. They loved her. They became family. She cried, even when she knew it was right, the day the baby she’d had since birth left their home. I watched, from afar, as an observer. None of it made sense.

But it was all God. It’s what she could not unknow after she knew it.

We have both learned much since those seminary days. About life, God, and what messy looks like. We have learned that life is not our script to write and God lives in the illogical sureties, which are abundantly superior to the calculated risks.

And there is much more to learn.

But some things about God we never will.

So we keep going and make peace with the not knowing, understanding it is an important part of wanting Him first and most.

Excerpted with permission from I Want God by Lisa Whittle, copyright Lisa Whittle.

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Your Turn

Have you ever prayed a “Please, God, don’t send me there” kind of prayer? Many of us have! Getting in the God-mode of truly being flexible with whatever He calls us to, the illogical and inexplicable, is a big leap of faith. Are you ready for it? ~ Devotionals Daily