For most of my life, I have sought after control, but possessed little of it successfully.
As a little girl, I wanted my mom to play Polly Pockets with me, but I wanted to tell her what to say and how to say it.
As a teenager, I developed an unhealthy obsession with food, exercise, and perfectionism to the point that I would do anything to achieve unrealistic goals that only hurt others and myself along the way.
As a young adult, I have tried countless times to grasp hopes and dreams falling from my hands as if I could control the way the Lord would pry them away from me.
In Proverbs 16:9, the word of our God states, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."
No matter how hard we try to formulate the right equation for a controlled and balanced life, something will always throw us off. It's like a teacher who plans all of her lesson plans for the year, only to be thrown off by two snow days in one week (*facepalm to self).
When we learn to relinquish control to the one who already holds it, I believe there are ten ways God can work when we're no longer in control.
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1. When You Rest
If I'm sincere, rest has been an unnatural concept to me since birth. Other than the occasional naps as a baby, I distinctly remember hating taking naps in childhood. My mom told me I was a crier, and rest was not in my vocabulary or hers (sorry, mom!).
However, outside of napping, I believe that when we surrender authority to Jesus, the type of rest He calls us to pursue through Him is a little bit different than we typically imagine.
When Jesus tells us to "rest" in Scripture, especially related to resting from our worries, concerns, and longings to control, He means to lay those burdens at His feet. His call to rest is less about stagnation and more about trusting Him and His direction for your life.
Matthew 11:28-30 notes, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
In Psalm 127:2, we learn, "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."
God's presence is within us, and when we choose to rest in Him instead of seeking meanderings for control, His peace will dwell among us. "And he said, 'My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest'" (Exodus 33:14).
2. When You Trust the Process
While resting in God can be difficult, trusting the process is also something the Lord will use to stretch and shape us.
I love physical exercise—those moments when I finish a good workout and my muscles are crying because I worked them to exertion. But as much as I love stretching the flesh God gave me, I strive to develop the heart to pursue His call within me as well.
"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Just as a trainee has to trust the trainer, won't you trust the source of hope and security to train you in what matters?
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3. When You Follow His Call
In high school, I helped lead a Bible study where every week we shared Bible nugget tidbits. During senior year, I spoke on how many seniors had fallen into the trap that God's will was a dot (myself included). If I made the wrong move, including college, career, or friends, I was fearful I'd miss the mark entirely.
But when God calls us to be disciples, to leave all matters of control in His hands, rest assured that following His call is as simple as following Jesus. Sure, a job, finances, and friendships matter, but His Word's premise is based on "Love God, Love Others” (Isaiah 58:6-7, Matthew 6:33-34).
In Micah 6:8, the Bible paints us a beautiful picture of what it means to follow and rest in His call: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
4. When You Get Comfortable with the Unknown
When we learn to follow the Lord's call in placing Him first and loving others, then comes the uncertainty of doing these things in the parameters of unprecedented times.
I am confident in saying that none of us expected COVID-19 to have an insurmountable impact on the United States as it has, but if it has taught us anything, it is to value our minimal and finite time on this earth.
There will never come a day that we will be able to predict every second, plan any moment, and work out a plan flawlessly. But, when we choose to rest in knowing God amid fearfully unknown and faltering times, His joy is to be found.
"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15)
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5. When You Wrestle
Like Jacob with God in the middle of the night, we have all tried to grasp for control in circumstances that were far beyond our reach. As much as we tried, our fingertips merely grazed the person, situation, or plan we attempted to dominate.
Sometimes, we need to be honest with God and tell Him how we feel. We need to wrestle in our thoughts, ambitions, dreams, and emotions and wait for Him to respond.
I've heard it said that bottling up emotions never made for a healthy potion, and the same applies to our Heavenly Father. Jesus wants to hear how you're doing, even if it means grappling with His Will versus your desires.
"Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.“ (Genesis 32:28)
6. When You Seek His Word
At His most grievous time, Jesus Himself realized that when you're not in control, God's will prevails. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He begged the Father three times in prayer to take the cup of wrath from Him.
"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Humbling and submitting Himself to the Father He loved, a Father who at that moment turned His back on His Son to save all of humanity, Jesus knew that what was before Him was higher than that which He presently resided in at that moment.
When we seek the word of God, miracles like Jesus happen.
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7. When You Pray
Of course, when we seek God, we need to be willing to pray. Philippians 4:6 reminds us to pray at all times, for there is power in the mighty name of Jesus.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Likewise, prayer is the direct telephone line to our Creator, who loves to hear from us! With one call, we are in uninterrupted connection with the one who formed our hearts and hears and answers all prayers, whether we say them out loud or not!
Psalm 34:17-18 tells us, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them from all their troubles."
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)
8. When You Explore Companionship
When we pray and have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we have fellowship with Him. He died to give us life, and because of that salvation, we get to participate in the marriage feast of the bride and her lambs.
Beyond our relationship with Him, however, Jesus also created us for companionship with others. When you learn to let go and let God, as cheesy as it sounds, remember to explore those friendships and camaraderie, He's blessed you abundantly.
Not only do these relationships bring us joy and growth, but they can also push and sharpen us to grow in the Lord. Proverbs 27:17 reminds us to glean from these relational gifts from above: "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another."
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9. When You Let Him Use You
Once you've trusted God with control, remember to let Him use you for whatever purpose He may have in store for your life.
I once heard a friend say that she felt called to be a missionary and has had countless dreams that she will one day be martyred. Though she is 17 years old, she says with confidence that she will pursue that call no matter the price.
While not all calls are that extreme or gruesome, her faith to follow that call regardless really stood out to me. When we let God use us as He intends, the earthly cost is nothing compared to His eternal reward.
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
10. When You Enjoy life
Every day, each of us is given 24 hours, nothing more, nothing less. And if you're anything like me, it seems that we never have enough time to get everything done, especially when struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, and of course, control.
Despite these timeless days, however, Jesus desires for us to enjoy life here on earth until His Kingdom comes. He doesn't want you to be stressed out, trying to fixate every minute of your schedule so that X, Y, and Z will align with the stars.
John 10:10 cues us to understand that Jesus came so we could have life both here on earth and in Heaven. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
Though we work for the infinite days of endless ages in Heaven, remember that in releasing control, God wants you to enjoy this life while you're here, even if we are just a vapor, here one day and gone the next (James 4:14).
"There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)
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Originally published Friday, 12 February 2021.