In two recent posts I suggested that we might think of the Creator as sort of like a “Traffic Engineer” who made a system that works for our maximum safety and minimum disasters. I qualified my remarks by admitting that God’s system doesn’t rule out traffic jams and accidents caused by freeway blowouts or wrecks at the hands of reckless drivers. You know I’m using this as a metaphor to describe a God who exercised his sovereign prerogative to invent us with the frightening freedom to choose. Right?
But to take it a little further, let me propose that sometimes he even sovereignly creates traffic jams ahead of us for any number of reasons. Maybe he wants to put us into an inconvenient delay that requires us to develop that dreaded quality called “patience.” (Personally, I’d rather learn it another way.) He might decide to “jam us up” so that we’ll be somewhere we wouldn’t otherwise have been in order to help someone else. I have a friend who got a flat on the highway and led the tow truck driver to Jesus!
I have no doubt that God plans certain gridlocks in order to protect us from accidents ahead or to transport us to certain divine appointments that we didn’t have on our calendars. But I am not at all convinced that he controls everything in his world in that same manner. Some things he “engineers” beforehand (as the Traffic Engineer) and at other times he does his after-the-fact providential thing where he “works in all things for the good of those who love him.”
But that’s not the same as saying he planned everything ahead of time. After we’ve been delayed by roadwork or were rear-ended by another car or experience engine trouble, he may – or may not – step in with a “Plan B” of sorts. His Plan B will at the very least tide us over until Plan Z when he takes us home.
I’m saying he’s in control but he doesn’t control everything (at least in the “particular” sense of it). Yes, God is omnipotent and can do anything that he chooses to do, but when he was deciding between options he chose a system in which his beloveds would have their own choice to love him in return or not. He’s in charge of everything, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he always gets his way (at least not in the short run). If he did always get his way then he wouldn’t have taught us to pray, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
I’m aware that what I’m proposing does not exactly reflect the typical evangelical party line that goes something like: “Have enough faith, pray the right way, and live obediently, and God makes everything turn out great for you.” But stick with me and see if what I’m saying isn’t biblical and make more sense of the “traffic jams,” wrecks, and accidents we have on this side of heaven.
Jesus taught that God knows every sparrow’s life span and has our hairs all counted, but he didn’t go so far as to say that he extends the lives of all birds or gives all bald men more hair!
I’m not saying that he couldn’t do those things if he wanted to, but that he usually doesn’t. If a circumstance presented itself that “required” such an intervention, I suppose he would do it, and not work up a sweat in the process. But such interventions on his part seem less common than not.
He’s in control, he has control, but he doesn’t exert total control in every circumstance. The ultimate outcome of his free will experiment with humans will bring him the glory he deserves. In the meantime (and believe me, some of these times can be pretty “mean”), he doesn’t always intervene to prevent a disaster or even fix one once it happens.
In other words, he doesn’t step in to avert every tragedy on our journey or always providentially create difficulty in order to produce the best outcome. Sometimes (please note my tedious use of the words “always” and “sometimes”) we experience his providence as an intervention after-the-fact. The damage has been done. He didn’t will it to happen and he didn’t plan it to happen, but once it has happened, he can transform it into something good. He can sweep up the broken pieces from our wrecks and accidents and create something better than it was before.
Of course, the final destination of our road trip is being with him in his home state where there are no traffic jams, wrecks, or accidents. We might or might not see the results of his providential genius while still on the road, but no doubt we will enjoy it when we arrive home.
I’m saying that God has more than one way to “work all things together for good.” To return to my traffic jam metaphor, sometimes he does it by wise engineering of the traffic patterns on the front side. Other times he steps into the fray to prevent a tragic accident. And yet there are many other times he might not step in till after the crash and does whatever he can to contrive something “good” out of a bad situation.
As I indicated, he might not step in at all (at least not that we can see) until he welcomes us into the Better Place – the Place devoid of all traffic jams and freeway fatalities. In other words, the “good” he concocts is often not fully worked out while we’re still on the road. In order to see the vast majority of the good he’s capable of concocting out of the bad, we’ll have to wait until we arrive at our final destination, that other Place that he’s preparing us for and preparing for us.
I know this is not the most conventional way of looking at God’s involvement in our daily lives. What are your thoughts?