During the past few weeks, two people have said to me they believe that individuals have control of everything that happens to us, and that we are responsible for everything that happens to us. In one sense, I believe this is true, due to karma we have created and must work out in some manner. On the other hand, I believe God is ultimately "in control" and many times we simply have the choice to respond in a way that is positive or negative. What are your thoughts?
You are definitely thinking along the right path. It is such a complex question that I thought I would share with you from a book called Rays of the Same Light. This is a commentary that Swami Kriananda has written on the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita. The excerpt that I give here is from comentary on the Bible passage. Swami Kriananda answers so much more elequently than I could. I hope you find it helpful.
Karmic law states that Nature responds in kind to every action; that the past, present, and future of each individual, and of everything in the universe, are parts of a single continuity, like the links in a chain.
Karma is the natural corollary to the doctrine of reincarnation. Together, these doctrines explain life’s countless anomalies: the effortless attainment, on the part of some people, of wealth, success, and good health; and the poverty, failure, and ill health that pursue others from birth no matter how hard they struggle to hoist themselves out of the quicksands of their misfortune.
This passage is from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, Chapter 6, Verse 7:
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
St. Paul addressed the typical attitude of people who view their individual acts as isolated events, failing to look beyond them to the broad tapestry into which their lives, like threads, are woven. Foolish people, ignoring the importance of the larger picture of reality, contribute nothing to it. They imagine that they live in a purely personal reality, and deceive themselves into thinking that what goes unnoticed by man will not be noticed by God. God, as St. Paul said, is not mocked.
We can never act apart from the Lord. Nor can we act apart from His cosmic law. Our duty to Him, to the universe, and also to ourselves, is to contribute to the overall harmony and beauty of His creation, and to the well-being of His creatures.