God Never Loses Control

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

An image of a tree in silhouette in front of a still body of water and a pink and purple sunrise.

I was standing at the counter, behind a customer who seemed to be taking his sweet time. My back had been aching for days, making it difficult to stand. I could feel the pain spreading, working its way up to my head and into my mouth. Yes, my mouth!  It was everything I could do to keep from lambasting the man and the clerk assisting him. Later, after the pain had subsided, I realized how distorted my perspective had been. I had been kept waiting for only a couple of minutes. Nothing to complain about. But the discomfort I felt had blackened my mood and muddled my thinking.

My ill temper was like an itchy trigger finger, waiting to blast whoever crossed my path.

Because we are subject to moods, it’s no wonder we sometimes project these onto God. We wonder if he’s capricious—impulsive, unpredictable, and irritable—as we sometimes are. Do we have to walk on eggshells, lest we inadvertently offend him?

Think for a moment of the calmest person you know, someone who is invariably even-tempered, and you will get a glimpse of the unchangeable nature of God. Thomas Aquinas said that God has no potential to be anything other than he is. That means his nature is fixed. His attributes do not change. Because he is perfect, God is already everything he should be. He can’t devolve, even for a moment, which means it’s impossible for him to lose perspective or control. It’s also impossible for him to act in ways that contradict his purposes, plans, or promises.

The prophet Jonah knew this. That’s why he ran when God commanded him to announce judgment on a city he despised. Instead of jumping at the chance to proclaim the bad news to Ninevah, Jonah tried to escape from God. He ran because he didn’t want to deliver a message that might inspire his enemies to repent. He knew that if that happened, God would be true to his nature, extending his mercy to them.

Here’s how Jonah explains himself:

"Didn't I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, LORD! I'd rather be dead…” (4:1)

Jonah is vindictive and histrionic, alternately terrified, happy, angry, and depressed, depending on the circumstances. But God is the same throughout the story—a God of justice and mercy whose singular plan cannot be thwarted. This is the God we follow, the Lord we acclaim.

Today as you pray, thank God for always being exactly who he says he is—the same Lord yesterday, today, and forever.

 
Originally published April 12, 2018.

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