Why “God is Sovereign” Is Not Enough (And What You Can Do Instead)

I’m in an interesting place right now. Things are going really well for me personally, and for my immediate family, in most areas. It’s the outside world I’m worried about. It seems like it’s going to hell in the proverbial handbasket, literally being dismantled before my eyes, and that I have no power to help or do anything to prevent the collapse.

I’m speaking, of course, about the catastrophe that begins with the inauguration this Friday, and also about a work situation that I can’t be too specific about. Both of these situations are out of my control, and both are hurting people I care about. And that hurts me, very much.

I have had some iteration of the phrase, “Don’t worry, God is sovereign,” thrown at me twice in the last 24 hours, by two different people, in response to each of these issues.

Situation 1: Yesterday, in a conversation about the work issue, a person in a position of power who is not directly affected by the situation told a group that basically all we could do was pray and have faith that God has “got this.”

Situation 2: Today at school, one of my fifth graders, who has been continuously worried since November 8th about his parents being deported, was literally crying so hard he couldn’t breathe or speak. I knew that he had had trouble sleeping as we got closer and closer to the inauguration, and he said that he had been having terrible nightmares about what would happen once DJT became president. I am powerless to do anything to help beyond say how sorry I am, that I care about him, and that we would get through it together.

I posted about this on Facebook, because I feel that the least I can do at this moment is make people aware about the real children who are being affected by this incoming administration. An acquaintance commented that she wasn’t a Trump supporter but 1) my student’s fear wasn’t caused by Trump, but by his/her parents being irresponsible and sharing too much about their fear of Trump, and 2) that we shouldn’t worry because “God is sovereign and we are under his protection, not the government.”

face-palm
image via pixabay.com

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s easy to say that God is in control if a situation doesn’t affect you.

It’s easy to say that God is sovereign if you’re not worried.

It’s easy to say that God has “got this” if you have nothing to fear.

If you feel the need to make this comment to me, I will clap back pretty hard. I am OVER IT. This statement is true, but useless. If someone is a Christian, they already know it, and if they aren’t a Christian, it’s meaningless.

As I see it, it is this kind of thing that makes Christians seem so out of touch with the rest of the world. This does not make people want to be like you. It makes them run away from you. This statement, unaccompanied by any concrete action or a sincere apology for their pain, is judgmental, unhelpful and unkind.

So, I’ve been thinking about some things that people can do and say that are more helpful, even if they don’t share the same concerns. If you feel like telling someone worried about Trump (or really anything) that God is in control, try one of these things instead:

    1. Tell them you’re really sorry they’re upset. You don’t have to agree with them to do this. (To be fair, my acquaintance did eventually say this in our conversation this afternoon.)
    2. Ask: “How can I help?” Then do what they say. If they would like prayers, pray for them, but don’t say “I’ll pray for you” in a judgmental way to someone who doesn’t want to hear it.
    3. Tell them you hope their fears will prove unfounded. (Don’t say their fears aren’t valid.)
    4. About Trump specifically: Write or call your representative and ask them to hold Trump accountable to the norms of the U.S. government. You can do this even if you are not personally worried about a Trump presidency.

How do you feel about the “God is sovereign” comment? And how are you feeling about Friday?

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Why “God is Sovereign” Is Not Enough (And What You Can Do Instead)

  1. These are all great suggestions. I have tremendous faith in God, but I believe that we the people are in for the fight of our lives. It appears to me, that our Government has been taken over by Dominionists. The concern of Donald Trump being Putin’s puppet is only one concern we should be watching, as he is surely the puppet of the religious right. I cannot see that Trump is responsible for selecting this cabinet specifically designed to give power to wealthy religious right activists and the military. I know that a lot people will think that this a crazy leftist concern, but I hope people will at least research Dominion Theology and consider the possibility. Too many dots connect and this is truly dangerous stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The elimination of the Johnson Amendment is the key in the video below. Eliminating the Johnson Amendment will allow direct contributions directly from the church to government and give many voices to politicians directly from churches. This is unacceptable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi BK, thanks for reading and commenting. I agree that there are so many problems to keep our eyes on about the Trump administration. I’m almost worried that this will work in Trump’s favor – there is so much craziness (like the lying about the inauguration attendance) that it distracts us from other, more important issues, like his conflicts of interest. We have got to keep paying attention to what matters. Take care!

      Like

  3. “God is Sovereign” is indeed problematic. It is a fix-all platitude which sits sngly and smugly in a sort of Pantokrator theodicy – but this theodicy is itself suspect. Epicurus stated the dilemma thus:
    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” But Epicurus hadn’t grasped the possibility of the Suffering Servant; the only vaguely humane resolution I have found to this theological conundrum is in the theopaschite concept of Christ suffering WITH US. The trepidation of the little boy is, for the child, an experience of Gethsemane and crucifixion. Your tenderness toward him is an expression of Christ’s Resurrection love. The use of the phrase “God is Sovereign” is the sort of dismissive cliché a Pharisee might have spoken on witnessing the troubles of the weak and vulnerable; he would have been correct according to the WRITTEN word, but hostile to the Spirit of Christ who is the LIVING WATER for those who thirst.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Scott, thanks for reading and commenting. “God is Sovereign” is just making me so mad right now.Calling it a smug cliche is exactly right. It’s telling us not to be angry when there is plenty to be angry about. Take care.

    Like

    • Thank you Holly. I found so much value in the Russian writer Nicholas Berdyaev. He knew times of intolerance, having witnessed the Russian Revolution, two world wars, and the rise of Hitler. He had this mystical notion of God being weak in the world, weaker than a policeman even, for it is in the despised, weak things of the world that true power is manifest – in acts of kindness, humility, the courage of resistance etc.
      Thank you for your blog Holly!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Two quotes as an appetite whetter (and I promise I’m not proselytizing you into Russian Orthodox mysticism 🙂

        “Every moral act of love, of mercy, and of sacrifice brings to pass the end of the world where hatred, cruelty, and selfishness reign supreme.”

        “Every single human soul has more meaning and value than the whole of history.”

        – Nikolai Berdyaev

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Reading your blog helps me to more carefully check my own rhetoric and sharpen my ability to clearly articulate my opinions. For that, I say thank you. By the way, #4 under suggestions: I believe it’s not the U.S. government which is to be adhered to by the citizenry but the U.S. Constitution. That’s what I want all elected officials to abide by and uphold.
    Holly, I know you say you benefited by Obamacare but does it bother you that Congress remits themselves from that which they impose upon the populace? i know that there is hypocrisy on both sides and to be frank, you and I who find common ground as well as opposing views on some things are also guilty of duplicity at times; if not in facts certainly in attitudes. Just thinking like you.

    Like

  6. Hi Holly, thanks for reading. If you read carefully my post says “the NORMS of the U.S. government.” I don’t really understand your second question, as no citizens have Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act imposed on them. No one is required to get their insurance that way (i.e. I now have private insurance again through my job).

    Like

  7. I share your frustration. 🙂 It seems to me to be more of an excuse to not take action and instead remain comfortable and complacent. “Let God (or someone else) take care of it.” When, in fact, I believe fatih calls us to action and perhaps even requires it. I can believe in a greater power while also believing I’m called by that power to be responsible for the world I’m a part of and those who live in it. I feel that is part of the greater lesson of our being here. And the beauty is God can do wondrous things when working through us as we take action.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s