I am a firm believer that God invites us to daily trust in His power and presence. To know and live with the knowledge that God has our back. Unfortunately it is an invitation that is often ignored. The main reason is that we believe we can handle our lives pretty much on our own.
Author Judith Mattison in her reflection on the 7 last sayings of Jesus notes:
“One of the seductive constructs by which many of us live is that we in fact do have primary control over what happens. This illusion is fed by the reality that we have many more choices in our lives than do most of the world’s people. We are blessed with education that opens opportunity and creative discovery to us. We have the choices that are allowed by sufficient diet, mobility, and political freedom. We have choices regarding health, artistic expression, and academic freedom. Add to these significant choices, the millions of products from which we can select, from laundry soap to fashions to soda pop. It seems to us that we can choose our futures.”
William Ernest Henley wrote a poem titled “Invictus” and it’s closing line exemplifies the human attitude of control. He wrote:
“I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”
We are convinced that we are in control of our own lives, able to determine our fate and our future. Or are we? Are we really the masters of our own fate? Are we really the captains of our own souls? Are we really in control?
Mattison highlights the illusion we have regarding control of our own lives. We think we are in control “until someone dies – a child, a friend, a famous philanthropist, a spouse. Then our sense of control vanishes; our lives are in disarray.”
Control becomes illusive like a vapor when something tragic happens that is outside of our control. Yes death, but it also can be a sudden and costly illness, a financial crisis, or the unexpected break-up of a relationship. And then we seek help! We turn to our magical God pleading for God to fix the situation for us – our desperation drives us to let go of our control and place it in God’s hands. Otherwise we spend the rest of our lives wrestling with God for control – control of the mundane; control of everything that we don’t want God to interfere in or intervene in on our behalf. Retired United Methodist Bishop and author William Willimon puts it this way:
“I think most of us, or maybe this is just me, but most of us spend most of our lives attempting to get our lives out of God’s hands and into our own. We achieve, and work, and build and hoard, we work out at the gym and watch our cholesterol. For most of us, if God wants my life, then God will just have to come and get it.”
And yet God is patient with us – God holds out for us an invitation to trust in him; to have confidence in him.
So let’s just say for a second that we really aren’t in control of our lives, then what do we do? What could this mean for our daily existence?
Consider with me the concluding moments of the drama on the cross – as Jesus comes to his final minutes he prays. It is his second prayer and it is a familiar prayer. “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”
(image courtesy of http://www.zazzle.com)
Commentators note that this is the same prayer that David prayed in Psalm 31:5. It was a prayer of confidence in the midst of his trial and tribulations. David believed that God would protect, provide, and shelter. They also note that this could have been a bed time prayer that Jewish mothers taught to their children. Therefore it is suggested that when Jesus says this prayer all of his Jewish followers would have recognized these words and maybe even found comfort and confidence in them. As I read the scene over and over this is what I glean from the moment – the dying son had supreme confidence in the Father and he wanted the onlookers to know it! Dying his response is a display of confidence that God is with him and cares for him.
Maybe that is what we control is our response to God’s invitation to put our full faith and trust in Him. But not just in the worst of circumstances. I have come to the realization that when I trust God in all things, even the daily aspects of my life then when (not if, but when) trouble comes I won’t have a crisis of faith. I believe that yielding to God now will help me to know God as my comfort, my shield, my rock, my refuge, my guide, and my shepherd. So as you think about the witness of Jesus how will you respond?
Luke notes that there are three different responses to these words of Jesus. First is the Roman officer – the centurion who is probably in command at this moment – he has watched and listened to Jesus and now after Jesus’ prayer the centurion praises God and proclaims “surely this man was innocent.” The second response is that of the crowd – a group of people who had high hopes and aspirations for Jesus. They had tried to control him and shape him into the leader, the king they thought he should be but now that he was dying on the cross, so were their dreams and expectations. This caused them to go away beating their breasts. The third response comes from Jesus friends – they had walked with him, some of them all the way from Galilee but now they simply stand at a distance watching.
So which one of the three describes you? In the midst of your joyous life or your troubled life what has been or what will be your response? Some of us might accept the invitation of God to trust him and it will cause us to praise God. Others of us don’t want to let go and we may walk away beating our chests. Still others of us may be stuck in the middle unable to decide and so we will stand and watch from a distance. That’s okay. God still holds out an invitation to us to trust in him; to have confidence in him.
God’s hope is that someday you will simply let go and say “into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Blessings for the journey.