As we stand on the cusp of 2017, I imagine everyone would like to know what will happen in the coming year. What kind of President will Trump make? What will happen to Syria? What impact will global warming have? Or, on a more personal level, what will happen in my life? Will I be happier or better off?
All of these questions beg a much bigger question: is the future already mapped out for us by the hand of God, as some believe, or is it completely up to us? What role does God play in determining our future?
Who is in Control?
As I peek into the unknown of 2017, I too ask these questions. There have been many debates over the centuries regarding God’s sovereignty. If He is truly sovereign, then doesn’t that also mean He is in control of everything? And what about our free will?
For God not to know, or control the future in every last detail threatens traditional theologies. The idea creates uncertainty over God’s providence, and more importantly, God’s promises. What if God can’t deliver?
Arminianism and Molinism, two 16th Century philosophies, tried to strike a compromise with earlier more stark views on predestination by saying that God is completely sovereign and in control, and at the same time, people are completely free. They did this by determining that God knows all the things that could or may happen based upon what people may or may not do. God has what they called “middle knowledge.”
According to Molinism, while a person is truly free, God is somehow in control of who is or is not saved. It all gets a little murky to me! I don’t believe in a God who chooses who is damned and who is saved. It doesn’t make sense. Living in the 21st Century, I realize we have the luxury of being in a world that doesn’t require God to be in control. Control is not the quality that makes God, God!
I subscribe to what is known as “Open theism.” I like the “open” part! Open theism says that God does indeed know all of reality, but a big part of reality is the realm of possibility. It’s not about what will come to pass but what may or may not come to pass based on the choices people make. We can still say that God is “all knowing” because he knows all the possibilities, but the outcome is written by people who have free will.
Your Future is Open
If the future is truly open, if the future cannot be known with certainty in advance, then it does not downgrade or diminish God. Although someone in the moment might be comforted by the notion that all things happen for a purpose, it is not necessarily best that everything happens.
One of the reasons I was drawn to the Divine Principle is that it brought together all our conceptions about God and life as we know it. People wonder how bad things happen to good people and how evil can exist in a world created by a loving God. These are good questions.
In one sense God is as stuck as we are. His creation cannot be realized without our fulfilling our potential and becoming spiritually mature. In untangling the origin of humankind’s suffering, Rev. Moon became very sensitive to the suffering of God. His life became less about him and more about God – not a God on a throne but a broken hearted God who wept over the world, and his children’s plight.
How does God act in the world?
If God is beholden to our free will, then how can God act in the world to ensure that His will or original desire is fulfilled? This is an important question – what is the intersection of God’s will and me? Do you ever think about that? It’s intriguing. Your life matters so discovering that intersection is important.
There are many stories that speak to how God can and does act in the world. One of my favorite genres is autobiography, and I especially love the life stories of missionaries and great adventurers.
One story in the Bible comes to mind. You can find it in Mark 9:14-29. The preamble to this story occurs in Mark 9:1-13. Jesus had climbed to the mountaintop with three of his closest disciples: Peter, James and John. There, they were witness to an incredible spiritual experience and saw Jesus talking with Elijah and Moses. This was a BIG deal. They were full of questions about this monumental, incredible happening. But then they descend from the mountaintop and experience chaos and dissent with the crowd below. We have all been there. We have an inspiring moment – feel high, and then return to the everyday happenings of family and lose hope in the valley of reality!
In this case, the disciples were trying to heal a boy without much success. The story goes like this:
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]”
Faith and Prayer
In this case the intersection between God’s will and the family was faith. God wanted to act to heal the boy. God is not a friend of suffering. And the intersection between God’s will and the disciples was prayer. Even though God is not able to control the world, He is able to intervene based on conditions we make. This simple truth, which is explored in detail in the Divine Principle, connects our understanding of a supreme God who is trying to shape this world and the salvation of His children who have, for better or worse, free will.
The conditions we have been asked to make have varied according to the level of humankind’s development. Thousands of years ago the condition was an offering on an altar. I thought about this recently as I prepared a gift for someone who was going through a very difficult time. I didn’t know what to do or say so I put my whole heart into preparing and wrapping a gift. And then I offered it. It came to me that this is the heart of Abraham and the ancients. They didn’t know how to repair their relationship with God. They intuitively and instinctively, gave, what for them, was everything, and this act built a little bridge between them and their creator. I felt the beauty of being able to give this kind of offering. Multiple acts like this, over time, elevated humankind’s heart toward their creator.
On this foundation, Jesus came and taught that God can indeed intervene in this world but we need to offer faith and prayer. Jesus addressed doubt head on when he said, “What do you mean, ‘If I can?’ Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father gets it and makes the most humble and necessary statement that comes from the depth of his being “ I do believe but help me with my unbelief.”
We have all been in that place at one time or another. That cry, “Help me with my unbelief” creates a bridge to God and also liberates God to work in the world.
It’s easy to have faith on the mountaintop and it’s hard not to doubt in the valley! This is why we need the power of prayer to connect our lives to God.
Prayer is a critical part of experiencing God’s presence and love in our lives. I encourage you to try prayer. When you pray and encounter the intersection between God and your own life, all doubt will be erased.
This is the magic of God. If everything were predestined, it would be a pretty boring universe! Our free will opens the door to creativity. Sure, free will is abused but can’t our free will also be used to right wrongs and build God’s ideal. This to me was what was astonishing about Rev. Moon’s life. No matter what situation he was in, he was determined to end the suffering of God. He understood God as a vulnerable parent who created a world that due to love, was beyond his total control. Rev and Mrs. Moon have dedicated their lives to liberating God. This is a revolutionary concept.
Offering of Heart and Devotion
Rev. Moon recalls being imprisoned in a Communist North Korean camp:
“After I became a prisoner, I told God, “Heavenly Father, do not sympathize with me in my circumstances.” When I was in difficulty, I never prayed asking God for help. I was serious. For one week or even one month I did not talk with other prisoners. What did that mean? My situation had become more difficult, and I thought, “How can I, by applying all my wisdom, offering all my heart and giving all my devotion, find a way to melt God’s heart in this difficult situation?” I was not working hard for my own salvation. I thought, “How can I connect God’s sorrow, indignation and bitter feelings to the fervent motivation in my heart and use them to strike Satan? How can the explosive power of God’s heart empower me to destroy the enemy camp?” This is what I thought about. I did not think, “I have to get out of here as quickly as possible.” Instead, I told my stomach, “Growl as much as you want!” When I was desperately hungry, the experience gave me an opportunity to embrace God with tears, assuring Him that I was more serious about the course of restoration through indemnity that I will have to walk for the sake of the world, than I was about relieving my hunger. I never tried to escape from hunger and other hardships.” (051-338, 1971/12/05)
Many miracles happened while he was in prison and during Rev. Moon’s escape to South Korea and freedom. Rev. Moon found the intersection between God’s will and his life and unleashed possibilities for God and humanity.
This is something each one of us can do as well. Yesterday, I encountered an example of one man’s courage to put himself in that place of discovery. His name is Kye Hy and he has been dubbed the Oprah for Millennials.
Be Your Best Self in 2017
Kye had it all. He was a managing director of a BlackRock Hedge Fund raking in millions, but at 35 gave it all up to travel the world and try to understand what life is all about. It was a risky move and his family and friends thought he was nuts. Nevertheless, a year or more later, he found his happiness scale went from a peak of 6.5/10 to a steady 9-9.5/10 and he has no regrets.
He now publishes RadReads which provides life hacks to guide your journey. His emails have subject lines like “From Hustle to Wholeness” and “Fear of Failure.” His motto is “Be your best self.” He invites people to ask the hard questions. But what caught my eye was his “What to do in 2017?” He doesn’t tell you to give up your job but does advise that you:
- Have more compassion — for yourself and others.
- Do the “Uncomfortable Introspection.” Hy says you have to figure out what you’re afraid of and learn to set it aside so it doesn’t impact your decision making.
- Get comfortable with stillness. We have to unplug and carve out quiet time in order to hear our inner nature speak.
- Live your truth. When you know yourself and what you really want, you finally stop living for money and prestige. It’s liberating.
This last one “live your truth” stood out for me. We are free to act in the world when we know what matters most to us. I thought of Rev. Moon and the struggles he faced in prison and realize his capacity to survive and ultimately win was because he understood his truth and lived it.
We are not living in a clockwork, predestined universe. Our Heavenly Parent, the creator of the universe wants us to discover our truth and live it. God’s will unfolds through our lives as we apply our unique creativity and energy to fulfill his and our dream.
I hope as we enter 2017, you can invest in living your truth and making your mark on the world. There is no better way to honor God and the life God gave you.