COMMENT

'If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans'

Woody Allen's joke contains more truth than we might imagine. Maybe even more than he intended. Picture: Shutterstock
Woody Allen's joke contains more truth than we might imagine. Maybe even more than he intended. Picture: Shutterstock

I think the hardest part is not knowing.

Like the rest of our town, I spent last Thursday and Friday just wanting an answer. Would a local case of COVID lead to lockdown? How long might it last? Did I visit an exposure sight?

In truth, this lockdown felt somewhat inevitable. We were told that a single case would lead to these restrictions. Many of us had a sense it was a matter of when, not if, this would happen. What feels less clear is just what it will take for the leanest lockdown to be lifted.

Life in a COVID world makes us feel that our secure and predictable lives have become unpredictable and uncertain.

However I would argue that moments such as these don't make life uncertain. They only serve to expose just how uncertain our lives truly are.

Just think about how quickly our best plans can be thrown into disarray. A sudden illness, an accident, a piece of bad news, uncertainty at work, the loss of someone we loved. Any of these can cloud our future plans in uncertainty. We can't even be sure that something as simple as a morning out in the garden won't be ruined by a sudden downpour, so little do we have any real control over the future

It is little wonder that Woody Allen once quipped, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."

Yet Woody Allen's joke contains more truth than we might imagine. Maybe even more than he intended. As the Biblical book of Proverbs explains, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."

The truth is that we we lack control because it is God who rules this world. As the old kid's song puts it, it is God, not us, who's 'got the whole world in his hands.'

This is a simple truth which could send us one of two ways.

It may be that you despair at the idea. You may be among those who believes that God isn't really taking the world in the direction you would like to take it. Maybe you find what he says about right and wrong objectionable. It may be that you imagine that you could do a better job than he is doing.

If that is you for any reason then I can see that the thought that someone else is ultimately in control of our lives is a tough pill to swallow. Rejecting it will likely cause us to continue to try to rule our own lives, insist on our own plans, determine what is right and wrong, and define ourselves on our own terms. But we will continue to be disappointed as we run into how little control we really have over any of those things.

On the other hand if we learn to embrace this simple truth, it will be a source of great hope and comfort in moments of uncertainty. Why? Because we can can look at the character of God and see that we sit in the hand of a good and loving Father. We can see the one who did not even spare Jesus for our sake, who endured the full force of a broken world to make us his, and we will find comfort.

Like the small child of loving parents who cannot comprehend why mum and dad run the family as they do, we will find ourselves often unable to make sense of what God is doing. We may find God's plans tough or unpleasant.

Yet like the small child, we can rest in the secure knowledge that we are truly loved. And as is true for the small child, we can be confident that in time we will mature enough spiritually that we will be able to see the goodness in what God was doing all along.

David Robinson is the Anglican Minister in Glen Innes