BY JUAN LASSO VELASCO
The power to overcome all obstacles through fortitude and determination. The ability to lead your life and forge your destiny by the strength of human willpower. These are qualities that people of our time value and seek with pride, and they are the tenets that my father held onto during his previous life in Colombia. My father was raised in Bogota, the Colombian capital and a city filled with violence and void of opportunity. He grew up in this harsh environment with absolutely no support from his parents. All that he owned, he had to work for, and all hardship that came his way, he had to deal with. Surprisingly, he did very well in providing for himself and later for my mother. At the age of 18 he started his own business, beginning years of hard work and perseverance that would lay ahead of him. When my father’s first business started to lose demand and profits, he started a new one. When that business had run its course, he founded his third. He was very successful despite the economic and social climate at the time and would go on to have a total of 48 workers under his authority. Through all of this, my father dealt with customers, he dealt with his workers, he dealt with the heat and rain of the Colombian skies, and he dealt with the pain, toil, and austerity in his life on his own. My father grew up with the mentality that he was in control of his life, and it wasn’t until I was born that he realized just how little control he actually had. Before that time, he had many of the same oppositions to Christianity that atheists have today.
When skeptics are confronted with the Christian faith, many of them turn to studies and theories in science to try and counter it, as if science was the final hurdle that continually keeps them from believing. Yet, sometimes, this is a mask that attempts to hide one of the real reasons why we as humans don’t like to face the truth of God and His word: the idea of control. We have been told and encouraged throughout our lives that if we set our minds to something, we can accomplish it. The idea that we can lead the way to whatever future we desire has been cemented into our culture in forms like that of the “American dream” or poems such as Invictus which proclaims, “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” This mindset has blinded us to the same reality that my father could not face: the fact that we are not in control.
This is a hard truth to face, even for many Christians! I have struggled with this idea my whole life and I still must remind myself of it frequently. All people, theists and atheists alike, struggle to let go of the bit of strength and power they think they have, but it really only takes a deep look at three different elements of our world to see that you do not have as much power as you might think. In this series of articles, I want to point you to each of these three. The first of which will be the lack of control we have over our planet.
You Cannot Control the Earth
Most people can agree that we have no control over the earth and its natural occurrences, but perhaps not at the level that we should. Although our advances in technology and science have led us to create new ways of warning and protecting us from natural disaster, we are still just as incapable of stopping such disasters as we were in the past. Take the flash-floods we sometimes get in North Carolina for example. The city can warn and prepare us as much as they wish, but the floods will come all the same. You could also look at the amount of damage that hurricanes have done to the states on the east coast, despite each of them taking all the necessary steps to prepare for the destructive storms.
I don’t say this to frighten you. I merely want you to understand that your life can dramatically change in an instant. You could lose your home, your wealth, and perhaps even your future (as you see it) because of natural events entirely out of your control. This is true at a smaller scale as well. The rain we regularly get in the springtime can at many times change our plans for the day whether we like it or not.
Almost everyone knows that the weather isn’t at their beck and call, but at many times people don’t really think of how this severely hinders them from being the “master” of their fate.
If you have ever seen a massive terraforming operation, you are probably questioning the claims I made in the previous section. You might say “How can you state that we have no control over our earth when we are constantly changing it each day?”. It certainly does seem like man can change how the world works. You could point to the bridges that allow us to cross large masses of water. You could talk about how we fertilize whole fields when the land doesn’t have enough nutrients to grow crops. You could even look at all the natural resources we extract from the earth. These great feats give the impression that human ingenuity is capable of a lot.
When you look at how people have carved mountains, planted farms, made islands, and built dams, you might convince yourself that people do have power over the planet. I would respond by asking you the same questions that God asked Job. Job 38 is a long section of scripture with a multitude of questions, but they can all be summed up in these two: ‘What do you truly know?’ and ‘What can you really do?’. Although our discoveries in science have answered many questions, they often bring about more questions than we had before. Although technology has done much to aid us as a society, it can only accomplish so much.
Florida is a good testament to this. It has perhaps the most sophisticated technology and protection against hurricanes than any other state in the US, since it has been hit with about 117 hurricanes during its history (no other state gets hit by hurricanes as often as Florida). Yet with all of the advancements they have, their best form of protection from these disasters is the natural wetlands that they could have no less control over.
The reality is that, no matter what perspective you look at it from, the earth that you live in, which is only a speck in our massive universe, is entirely out of your hands.
Creation and Its Creator
We are confined by our world and the natural laws that govern it, but the world is confined by the one who created it and continually sustains it. The almighty God of the Bible is the one whom all creation is subjected to. A theme that is continually emphasized throughout the Scriptures is that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).
Yet our world tries to promote humanity as the one who sustains our planet. Our society constantly wants to sell us the idea that if we don’t take extreme preparatory measures, the world will cease to work. Of course, we are meant to be good stewards of the world God has given us, and if we collectively become careless, we can do a good deal of harm to our local environment. Yet, we are promised by our almighty Creator that “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).
What we are not able to control, the Lord commands with great authority. He commands nature, “For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour” (Job 37:6) and He commands the earth, “He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; He puts the deeps in storehouses” (Psalm 33:7).
God, the creator and sustainer of our world, is in control. He knows that we have little power over what He has made. In fact, one of the reasons He made His creation so incredible, so massive, and so untamable is that we might see His glory and power through His work. It is so that we would look at what we cannot control and think, “A God that can make all these wonders and have authority over them, is worthy of our praise!” For the believer, this is an encouragement, but for the unbeliever, this is a cause for fear. Why? It is because “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1) and those who reject or ignore Him put themselves at odds with the God who commands the earth they themselves haven’t even been able to fully understand.
There is more that we as humans have no control over, but that is for another time. For this is only one of the realizations my father had before he became a Christian, and the next two were more difficult to accept than the first.