Friday is becoming my favorite day of the week.
Because it’s the one day in the week that I get to be home from work and can watch my 2-year-old son, Cameron.
Just my buddy and I. The whole day is ours. Some days we’ll go to the zoo. Some days we’ll go to the park. Some days we’ll go get lunch at Chick-Fil-A. Some days we’ll stay home and do nothing but watch cartoons in our pajamas (don’t tell mom).
Now, I’ll confess that this day wasn’t ALWAYS my favorite day. Especially when Cameron was 6-9 months old. Forgive my bluntness, but that age sucked. While I’m sure it helped my wife and I grow into more selfless caregivers, it obviously entailed a lot more “hands-on” work, far less responsive interaction from Cam, and much more confinement to a crib, a stroller, or a car seat.
But now, he’s finally hit what parents call the “fun age.” His days resemble (I imagine) that of a baby orangutan’s. Whatever setting he’s in, he’s always on the move. Running, climbing, playing, exploring, smiling, laughing. And yes, the best word to describe his lifestyle is just straight up “fun.” And even the times when he has so much “fun” that he’ll fall and bruise his knee, or cut his finger, or “bump his coconut” (head) from getting up too quickly under a table, even those moments are “fun” for me as a parent as I get to see him, tear-soaked, running to find his daddy to kiss the booboo.
So when I see the injury happen, I’ll sit down on the ground in anticipation of him trying to locate me. And without fail, once he locks eyes with “the target,” he will come and plop into my lap. And as I hold him in my arms, I’ll usually say things like, “it’s ok, you’re ok, Daddy’s here, Daddy’s got this.”
If you’re a parent, then I don’t need to elaborate any more on just how precious and special those moments truly are. They are moments that I will cherish as long as I live, and they are moments that I wish would last forever.
But the other day, a strange thought popped into my head.
“What if these moments actually did last forever?” Well, maybe not forever, but what if they lasted for a really long time? What if they lasted decades?
What if Cameron was 45 years old, bumped his coconut, cried inconsolably, and came running to his 80 year old dad to make it all better? What if the only way that adult-Cam could cope with his circumstances was to hear “Daddy’s got this” and then have me ceremonially “kiss the booboo?”
Now, as a father, is there a part of me that might still enjoy that? Maybe. But looming underneath that initial happiness would be the sobering realization that my son’s development has somehow stunted. By this stage in his life, he should be well beyond the point where he relies on his father to kiss his booboo before he can once again function normally. So, the temporary satisfaction that I would feel from comforting my child would quickly give way to a deep sadness at my son’s lack of maturity and independence.
“GOD’S GOT THIS”
There’s a phrase that gets thrown around by Christians in certain situations:
“Don’t worry, God is in control”
You might have heard it put another way: “God’s got this!”
But, does God “Got this?” Well, it depends on what we mean when we say that.
If we mean that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, then, yes, He’s “got that.”
If we mean that, thanks to God’s action in human history, we now have the hope of ruling and reigning with God on a renewed earth forever and ever, then….well, yes, He’s got that too.
And if we mean that God is able, either in this life or the next, to somehow redeem all the evil that has come about in the world for his good purposes (Rom. 8:28), then, by all means….GOD. HAS. GOT. THAT.
….But I suspect that this is not what is usually meant by well-meaning Christians who use the phrase, “God’s got this.”
And the reason for my suspicion stems from the fact that this phrase is only summoned as a “damage control” response when potential danger looms.
Threat of nuclear war=”God’s got this!”
Potential economic recession=”God’s got this!”
My spouse has been diagnosed with a terminal illness=”GOD’S GOT THIS!”
In other words, we tend to use this phrase only as an attempt to comfort others when their livelihood is being threatened in any way. And we find that it also “gets us off the hook,” so that we can sleep soundly knowing we offered a sprinkle of hope with almost no effort required on our part.
As well-intentioned as we are, the phrase “God’s got this,” has become a convenient Christian cliche that many of us utilize when we don’t know exactly what to say to someone who’s anxious about the future.
It may, to an extent, be true, but from the perspective of those on the receiving end, it is rarely helpful.
And while we hope that saying “God’s got this” will produce contentment and peace in our hearers, in reality, all it seems to breed is passivity. Maybe it’s just me, but when my life gets rough, and someone says to me, “God’s got this,” what I’m hearing them really say is “Don’t do anything. God will do it all for you. Just sit back and watch Him work.”
And that is not a biblical picture of God’s partnership with humanity.
Now, please don’t think I’m disregarding the value of comforting a friend when times get hard with life-giving words that reflect God’s promises. Obviously, hearing such words is a dire need in the heart of every believer.
But I think we can do a little better than, “God’s got this.”
Because the truth is, God doesn’t necessarily “have this” in the way we’re saying He does.
If by proclaiming, “God’s got this,” we’re trying to imply that God will fix our immediate dilemmas and therefore no effort on our part is required, well that may not be true. Without human intervention, Nuclear war might occur. Without human intelligence and financial strategies, my country might experience a severe economic recession. Without the intervention of doctors and chemotherapy, my loved one might die of cancer.
And it also doesn’t mean that God will override all the evil acts committed in our world. His respect for the human will and agency is far too great. So he does, in fact, allow many atrocities to occur despite the fact that, according to some, he’s “got this.”
...So now what? Does this mean that you were wrong when you told me “God’s got this?” Was I lied to by a friend who was simply trying to offer me temporary comfort?
Or does God “having this” mean something different?
SHOULD’VE BEEN A LONGER NAP
I love the little story of Jesus and his disciples out on the boat during a storm (Matthew 8: 24-27). If you hear this passage preached in church, quite often the moral of the story is something like “trust in Jesus to calm the storms in your life.”
The problem is…in the story itself, this is exactly what the disciples do, and yet Jesus isn’t thrilled about it.
Jesus is napping away on the boat, the storm hits, and his disciples wake him prematurely (probably at the beginning of his REM sleep), and yell, “Save us, Lord! We are perishing!”
But, surprisingly, Jesus doesn’t celebrate their faith. He doesn’t rejoice that they had the wherewithal to wake him up so that he could solve their problem.
Jesus is genuinely curious why they showed such a LACK of faith.
But obviously not a lack of faith in Jesus! They certainly showed faith in him by waking him up to calm the storm.
So faith in whom?
I suspect he was saddened that his students lacked faith in their own abilities. They lacked the faith that, because their Rabbi was with them and his power was flowing through them, they might be able to calm the storm.
What if calming the storm himself was Jesus’s contingency plan, not his best-case scenario? What if the reason he so peacefully fell asleep was due to the trust he had in his disciples to act on his behalf if the occasion called for it? Imagine his surprise when he is violently awakened by his students, who reveal just how ill-prepared they still are. They are 45-year-old Cameron wailing to his 80 year old dad to make the booboo go away. In their fear, they must have said to themselves, “The son of God’s got this!” And yet, Jesus longed to look at them and say, “I’m with you, so YOU got this. And because you got this, I’m going to take a nap.”
God desires for us to become the kind of people that He can look at and say, “YOU got this!”
So that, even if the boat sinks, even if the bombs fall, even if the market crashes, even if the cancer metastasizes, God is still interested in us becoming the kind of people who know how to connect to Him, His Kingdom, and His resources no matter the circumstance. He is not interested in us brushing off a glaring issue with the phrase “God’s got this.”
He’s in the business of creating in us a character like that of His beloved son, who trusted His Father’s presence so deeply that it produced in him an otherworldly drive to lovingly serve people and address evils of every kind head-on.
A GLIMPSE OF GROWTH
This past Friday, I did something very hard for a new dad to do. I don’t even know how I was able to do it.
I let my child get hurt.
I saw him playing underneath the table, and I just had this funny feeling that he’d stand up too quickly and bump his coconut. But I let him continue playing. And, like clockwork, the inevitable occurred.
But this time, I didn’t run to him. I didn’t go to where he could easily find me. In fact, I made myself hidden. I was still there, still watchful, still ready to act in case the injury ended up being serious. But I was curious to see how he’d behave if he didn’t have the “Daddy safety net” this time.
And you know what? He shocked me. And I can’t make this next part up.
He walked over to where we normally would rendezvous for a time of consoling, sat there for a minute and, after a brief period of tears and sniffling, eventually took a breath, and went about his business of resuming his play.
It was incredible.
As hard as it was to not be there for him, and as painful as it was to realize he didn’t always need me to “kiss it better,” there was this inexpressible joy in the knowledge that my son took a small step toward maturing into the person I want him to be. It made me so happy to see my son use the resources within himself to “make it better.”
Our desire for our kids is not that they would rely on us for comfort, sustenance, and provision for the rest of their lives. We naturally want them to develop into the kind of people that can independently initiate what needs to be done, for themselves or for others, at the moment it needs to be done. We strive to teach them in such a way that, once they reach adulthood, their first response when things get tough will not be “mom’s got this” or “dad’s got this,” but “I got this!” We long for them to trust that there is enough of their parents’ wisdom inside of them that, in the event that mom or dad are no longer around, they can still thrive without constant parental guidance.
This was God’s divine plan for humanity since the beginning of time.
God has created us for one purpose: To partner with Him in the stewarding, growing, and flourishing of this glorious, eternal cosmos which He created.
And he has designed us in such a way that we, too, can grow, mature, and develop into the kind of people that will no longer need nor desire constant guidance from God on how to act rightly, but will have so much of God’s spirit flowing through them that they will naturally bring forth, from out of themselves, all the goodness, truth, and beauty which He endorses.
Speaking on God’s constant guidance through prayer, author Dallas Willard emphasizes:
“…in general, it is God’s will that we ourselves should have a great part in determining our path through life. This does not mean that he is not with us. Far from it. God both develops and, for our good, tests our character by leaving us to decide. He calls us to responsible citizenship in his kingdom by saying—in effect or in reality—as often as possible, “My will for you in this case is that you decide on your own.” God is preparing us for a life of initiative, so I know that God will be with me even when he does not tell me what to do.”
So, does our spiritual maturity and development mean that we will eventually come to the place where we no longer need God for provision? Of course not.
We will never develop past the point where God’s grace and power is a necessity to us, just as our physical bodies will never mature past the point of needing food or water for survival. Our souls were created to “run on God” just as a 747 runs on jet fuel. But any reliance upon God that does not produce in us a desire to act on His behalf is no reliance at all.
There is a fine line between reliance and passivity. True reliance on God’s grace to rescue and sustain us will naturally evolve into a full-blown confidence that does not cause us to sleek back in complacency, but propels us forward toward self-initiating action.
So God’s desire is not that we would no longer need him, but that we would be so filled with Him that we do not think twice about acting as He would have us act.
So, when fear sets in, terror looms, and problems arise, let us not be so quick to think “God’s got this” and move on, but rather that God’s got YOU, and therefore, YOU got this.”
Thanks for reading, friends.
 Willard, D., Smith, J. B., & Johnson, J. (2021). Hearing god: Developing a conversational relationship with god. IVP an imprint of InterVarsity Press.