Do We Have Free Will, or Is God in Charge?

Today’s scripture: Psalm 146 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Linda Bernabie):

Psalm 146 has been referred to as one of the “Hallelujah” Psalms, and rightfully so. This psalm is full of praise and glory for God, and extols the wonderful blessings that the Lord bestowed on the Hebrew people. However, the most engaging verse for me is the very last one. This verse tells us that God is “In Charge”. . . “The King”. . . “The CEO!!” Does that mean that God controls everything I do?

As a child I was taught that God controls all things, both great and small. So I asked my Sunday school teacher, “Why would God let me do bad things?” To that she answered, “God does not make you do bad things. Satan lives among us, and Satan is trying all the time to turn us away from God and lead us to sin.” Of course, my natural rebuttal was, “Well, why doesn’t God just STOP letting Satan do that?”

Think about it. If God is in control of everything, I don’t need to figure anything out because everything that happens is “meant to be.” I don’t have to take responsibility for my own actions or their consequences. I get to say, “It wasn’t my fault, everything that happens is preordained.” I never need to say, “I am sorry.” After all, it is all part of God’s great plan.

If I choose to believe that God is in control of everything, then I must blame God for everything, both good and bad, including, the 11 million people who died at the hands of the Nazis, terrorists crashing into the Twin Towers, famine, plagues, the loss of my loved ones, and the list goes on and on.

What happens if God is not in charge? That means God gave me free will, so I am on my own! I can choose what thoughts I want to think and how I want to act. I do everything by myself, with my God-given talents, but without God’s help. When I am suffering, I can’t go to my Lord in prayer. After all, I have free will!! I just continue to suffer until “I finally pull myself together.”

No disrespect to the Bible, but I don’t buy into either scenario. Maybe I believe in both scenarios. My relationship with God is a partnership. My free will makes me invite God into my life. When I am struggling, I pray to God for wisdom, for guidance, and sometimes for a miracle. Sometimes God answers my prayers with a yes, and sometimes with a no.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, says, “People who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayers answered. They discover that they have more strength and courage than they ever knew themselves to have. Where did they get it? I would like to think that their prayers helped them find that strength. Their prayers helped them tap hidden reserves of faith and courage which were not available to them before. . . . The God I believe in does not send me problems; [God] gives me the strength to cope with the problems.”

Thought for the Day: Wisdom is Knowledge that is guided by Understanding; we have to have the wisdom and the knowledge to understand why certain things happen in our lives and trust that God will lead us over any obstacles that come in our way. (Rashida Nikila)

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.