One of the most intractable secular ideologies among moderns is our sense that we have (or can have) singular control over our lives; that we are the captains of our own ship so to speak. This, of course, is a foolish notion; we certainly have control over our own actions but that doesn't mean we control our lives. We think we do, but ultimately it's the actions (good or bad) of others --whether those others are our family, friends, or society -- that have as much of an affect on our lives as the sea does to the ships voyage. Many times it's complete strangers who have the biggest impact on our lives. And yet this ideology persists. Blame it on technological success of the last 100 years and the commensurate feeling of control it has given us.
What a stumbling block for modern Christians! How does one submit to the will of God and give up that sense of control? Is it even possible for moderns Christians to do so?
Over the last few weeks I've been reading Bonhoeffer's "The Cost of Discipleship" and I've come away from this reading with a feeling of awe not only for the compelling way Bonhoeffer describes this letting go, this submission, but the way that Bonhoeffer actually gave up control of his life and submitted to God's will.
I say all this by way of introduction to a "Hymn of the Day" my church sung a couple of Sundays ago. Appropriately, it's in the "Trust, Guidance" section of the hymnal. The tune is a haunting one that sticks in your head long after you've sung it. And although I'm not overly emotional, the text moved me to tears when I sang it.
"If You But Trust in God to Guide You" (ELW translation):
If you but trust in God to guide you
with gentle hand through all your ways,
you'll find God is there beside you
when crosses come in trying days,
Trust then in God's unchanging love;
build on the rock that will not move.
What gain is there in anxious weeping,
in helpless anger and distress?
If you are in your Savior's keeping,
in sorrow will he love you less?
For Christ who took for you a cross
will bring you safe through every loss.
The Lord our restless hearts is holding,
in peace and quietness content,
We rest in God's good will unfolding,
what wisdom from on high has sent.
God, who has chosen us by grace,
knows very well the fears we face.
Sing, pray, and keep God's ways unswerving,
offer you service faithfully.
Trust heaven's word; though undeserving,
you'll find God's promise true to be.
This is our confidence indeed;
God never fails in time of need.