Years ago, I lived in West Africa for a few months. I loved meeting the women in the villages, but I especially loved holding their babies. Yet each baby I held I noticed something similar.
Each baby wore a bracelet on their wrist and a piece of thread that criss-crossed behind their back.
They wore it for protection—to keep away evil spirits or sickness or any type of harm. The parents of these little ones bought these accessories and took them to the local witch doctor. This is when they became more than mere wire or thread (to them at least). They became powerful as the witch doctor commanded magic into them.
It sounds silly to think an object like such holds power, but I find I think I can ward off harm too—although in a different way. These people wanted to prevent harm, so they sought magic. I want to prevent harm, so I seek to control. Neither brings surety.
Controlling To Prevent Harm
My friend died in a four wheeler accident when I was 12. From that day on, I wouldn’t ride on one unless I was the one driving. I felt more safe if I drove. I, after all, could control my hands and my focus and my use of caution. I couldn’t control someone else’s—even if I hung over their shoulder and instructed them.
I never had a four wheeler accident, but I did have a car accident. I wasn’t driving. And I flew out of the vehicle, landing cheek-down on the cold asphalt. Ouch? Yep.
It may not surprise you to hear how I now prefer to drive whatever car I’m in. The accident wasn’t my friend’s fault at all (A woman ran a red light and hit us.), but I still find it hard to trust another driver. Furthermore, this lack of trust comes secondary to the confidence I have in my ability to control my circumstances.
If I can be the one with my hands on the wheel, if I can be the one in control, I can prevent the harm that might happen if I left it to someone else.
While I don’t wear a special bracelet or strings of thread wrapped around me, I hold onto control as if it holds power.
No one charged me up with magic. I have no so-called healing or prevention powers. Yet for some reason, I think my ability to control will work over and over again.
If I control this or that, nothing bad will happen—I convince myself. No sickness. No broken bones. No fatalities. And I believe it until the bad comes despite my efforts to keep it away. Every. Single. Time.
Yet even when it seems I’m in control, like when my hands holding the steering wheel get me where I need to be in one piece, I’m not really—or not totally in control. Someone bigger and greater is.
God Is In Control
I’m not going to hop on the interstate tomorrow and take my hands off the wheel while singing Carrie Underwood’s song, hoping he’s got it. I still have the responsibility to keep my hands steady, but if my hands fail to do their job, or if another driver hits me from behind, the One who orchestrates my life allowed it and even willed it (Rom. 8:28).
God is the one in control of my circumstances even when it looks like I’m controlling them. And God’s control doesn’t keep us from harm either. For those of us who love him, he causes all things good and bad for our ultimate good.
No matter how hard we try to prevent it, at some point we will get sick. We will suffer. We will lose loved ones, or we ourselves will die before we grow old.
However, when it comes to keeping evil spirits away like the Africans desire, we have access to even greater power. It’s not believed to be in a bracelet or a piece of thread. It’s inside of us. And while a wire or thread can break or end up lost, our source of power never leaves us. We’re sealed by the Holy Spirit on the day of our salvation. Our power source isn’t going anywhere.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we fight against all evil spirits in this evil present age (Ephesians 6:10-18) knowing that no one—not even the Devil himself—can snatch us out of God’s hand (John 10;28).
God is in control. We don’t need a magical charm. Nor do we need to control with the assumption that it’s what keeps us safe. We trust God to uphold us no matter what, and we release our hands in worship when what happens wasn’t part of our plan, knowing it was part of his.