How to Better Understand What Is in Your Control

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How to Better Understand What Is in Your Control

Our lack of control may sound like bad news, but as Christians we know that we do not need to control every aspect of life to live satisfied.

Living today in America has become quite the challenge. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there have been riots on and off since last summer, and most recently taking place at the Capitol.

The news keeps us in a frenzy over health concerns, and even works us up to disavow our rival political party. In a nation divided on potentially every level—politics, religion, and family values—everyone is trying to push for what they believe to be right, true, and pure. Emphasis on what they believe.

We want to control aspects of life that we feel are unfair, unjust, and make those things right. This is how we try to control life outside of ourselves.

And then there are the problems we face on a more personal level. There are seasons when life is replete with all kinds of problems: struggling finances, broken relationships, illnesses, and plenty of unrest.

We pray, we cry, and sometimes we give up. If we could make our problems go away we would. That is, if we had control.

Are We Ever in Control?

As Christians we know that life brings joy, but life also brings pain (John 16:33). These pains in life are unavoidable because they are out of our control.

If we ever want to compare things we control to things we do not control, all we have to do is plan our lives for a month, activities that involve ourselves and others. By the end of the month, we can recount all the things that went according to plan, and all the things that did not.

We quickly learn there is not much we control: how people react to us, the decisions others make, the weather, the family we are born into. The list goes on.

Control is defined as “to hold in check” or “to exercise restraint or direction over.”

Our lack of control may sound like bad news, but as Christians we know that we do not need to control every aspect of life to live satisfied. We have a God who remains in control. We know this because of all that the Bible says on this subject.

What Does the Bible Say about Control?

“A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

God’s control always reigns superior to our own. We can make our plans, enact our choices, but ultimately what God wants to happen will happen.

God’s planning for our lives begins even before we emerge from our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

Naturally, a question arises, if God has that much control then what do we actually control for ourselves?

Though there is some degree of predestination (God’s planning) for our lives, God has also given us free will. The first example of this in the Bible comes from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He instructed them to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17).

And yet they did.

God allowed this to happen. Throughout the Bible we see instances of suffering that God allows to happen. And while there are scriptures that point to the redemption that’s possible in suffering, one thing remains true, God is aware of what we go through.

The story of Job is one of an innocent man suffering. The book begins and ends without indicating why he had to suffer to begin with, but God allowed the suffering (Job 1).

God determined how much He allowed Job to suffer and ultimately decided to restore him by the end of the book (Job 42).

God does not take things away from us without giving us something in return, not because He has to, but because He loves us (Psalm 126:5).

For us this means we will suffer in ways out of our control, but we have a caring God who oversees everything, even the hardships.

Job did not control his circumstances, but he did control how he responded.

Seeing life as an unmeasurable mixture of free will and predestination is the life we are living, and have lived since the time of Adam and Eve.

This truth may seem confusing at first, especially as we live our lives in the wake of Adam and Eve. Sometimes we vie for control over things God has not given us authority over.

There is a balance between Him and us, what we do and what He does.

To better understand our part in what does and doesn’t come to pass, we need to understand an important distinction in God’s will. God has both his perfect will and his permissive will, and the Bible speaks to both.

What Is God’s Perfect Will?

Another word to describe God’s perfect will is His sovereignty. This word describes God’s omnipotence over all creation. What God wants to happen will always happen, and whatever God does not want to occur will not.

A great example of this appears in the Book of Job: “I know that you can do anything and no plan of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Job had no control over the circumstances that befell his life, but he did have a Father in Heaven he turned to for understanding and comfort.

God’s perfect will entails what will come to pass. There is no internal or external force that can change what God has set in motion.

How God treated Job is a reminder that God will not allow us to suffer beyond what He thinks we are able to handle (relying on Him).

Another example of God’s perfect will is His promise to the Nation of Israel. He promised numerous people in the Bible that He would make Israel into a powerful nation who dwelt in the Promised Land. Despite the sins of humanity since the first man and woman, God kept His promise and delivered humanity's savior from that very family tree (Luke 3:23-38).

What Is God’s Permissive Will

God’s permissive will describes things that God does not force to occur. However, He still allows nonetheless.

We see this early in the Book of Job:

‘Very well,’ the Lord told Satan, ‘everything he owns is in your power. However, do not lay a hand on Job himself.’ So Satan left the Lord’s presence.” (Job 1:12)

In his ordeal of suffering at the hands of Satan, God gave the Devil permission to act against Job. He laid forth the parameters with which Job would be tested.

Satan could not act outside of anything that God did not allow.

God always gives the final permission on the things that occur.

This idea is reflected elsewhere in Scripture too.

Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

This verse is a sure reminder that nothing will occur that God has not allowed. With that knowledge we can rest assured that God is not allied against us, and also He sees us as able to overcome whatever comes our way.

Who Is Really in Control?

Technically, God is in control and so are we. What’s important to know is what we control and what we do not.

When we try to control God things we will naturally grow frustrated from our inability. Like the people in the Bible, God has given us specific things to take responsibility for in our lives.

And likewise, there are parts of life that only He can really touch and move.

As we set our minds on the right perspective for what we control and what we do not, we can be confident God will help us gain the right perspective. After all, He gives wisdom freely (James 1:5).

The next time we take up some external cause, we should first evaluate what we control and what we do not. Once we know the difference, we can put prayerful action to the places God has given us, and prayerful surrender to “God things.”

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/AaronAmat

headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.