I spent over a decade of my life attempting to maintain control of what I could amidst some pretty nerve-wracking experiences. Big life changes. Health issues. Relationship issues. I liken that time to feeling like a tightly closed fist—exerting all my strength in keeping things together how I thought best. Yet the more I tightened that fist, the more things started to unravel.
I wanted to believe that if I just did enough, planned enough, tried hard enough, I would find success. It was a very painful time. Thankfully, God’s mercy is infinite, and He gently showed me how to open that fist and receive His will for my life.
Life is full of things that severely test our faith. Every day we hear of the worsening state of the world—politically, meteorologically, socially. Things are breaking down. Within our own day-to-day lives, there are health problems. Our own bodies can seem to rebel against us. Loved ones get sick. Relationship difficulties mount up. There’s job stress. Technology paradoxically simplifies and at the same time infinitely complicates our lives.
The very message of salvation is all about how God is in control.
So what is our hope in all of this mess? I’m learning to take ultimate comfort in the fact that situations are largely out of my control, but they are never outside of God’s. They are in the hands of the Maker of the Universe, the Master of all time and space, a loving Father who only wants the best for us and wants us to inhabit eternity with Him (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 6:23).
The Bible is Filled With Examples of People Who Learned This Lesson
Crack open your Bible. Check out all of the stories of men and women caught in seemingly uncontrollable situations and how they responded.
In ancient Israel, God fed His people with daily bread. They were instructed to gather only what was needed for the day and to eat it up by the end of the day. God would provide for them the following day. But some of them wanted to control the outcome. They were obviously not content—or maybe they were afraid—to let God be in charge of the situation. The result? “Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of [the bread] until morning, and it bred worms and stank” (Exodus 16:20). They had a very stinky mess on their hands to drive home the point that where God has made it clear we are to follow Him, disobedient disbelief and the attempt to take control in our own hands can lead to some hard (or stinky!) lessons.
Fast forward to the era of the Roman Empire. Paul went through some incredible hardships. Just read the list of what he went through in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33 for a record of some pretty disturbing situations he endured. Yet he penned the oft-quoted “and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). He chose to let God control his life.
Paul invites us to follow the example of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Christ experienced great trials and stresses and showed us just what to do in seemingly uncontrollable situations. In Matthew 4:1-11, He countered Satan’s attacks during Christ’s moment of physical weakness (from fasting) with adherence to the scriptures.
Again, He sought God’s control during His ultimate test of will and strength prior to and during His crucifixion, even though He was distressed to the maximum level (Luke 22:42-44). During a time of great need, He sought God the Father in prayer. His experiences show us that extreme emotions are normal during times of great stress and situations that seem outside our control. It’s what we do with them that counts.
And that’s the ultimate point about control. God gives us the choice, the self-control, to turn our thoughts to Him, to seek Him in prayer and His word and to obey that word, or to try to get ourselves out of our difficult circumstances by our own efforts. The latter usually fails, and often badly, as God tries to teach us that we have to surrender our lives to Him. God is more concerned with our salvation then He is with our comfort.
The very message of salvation is all about how God is in control. He chooses when and whom to call to His way of life (John 6:44). You’ve read this far, so I hope you recognize that He is working with you.
How do we develop this proper balance of self-control and surrender to God? Self-control is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and God encourages us to ask Him for more of His Spirit (Luke 11:13). All we have to do is ask! We don’t have to just try harder at our own efforts to control the situation.
This is super difficult to do, and a lesson that I will likely keep on learning over the course of my life. After all, “to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). God is teaching everyone in his or her own journey towards the Kingdom of God how to be more and more spiritually minded and less and less self-reliant each day. Invite Him into your personal journey. The surrender leads to a level of peace and trust that will sustain you amidst the difficulties of life.