Inevitably, at various intervals in our lives we will encounter situations about which we feel powerless. Things will come at us that affect us that we simply cannot control. For me, a known control-freak, this is especially distressing! We love to imagine that we to be the designers of our destiny, but the simple-yet-difficult truth is that we are not.
As is most-often the case, I am in the midst of a situation right now where I am having to learn this. I hope to be able to share details at a later time, but suffice it to say that my family is presently embroiled in a circumstance involving world systems and life-altering decisions. Yet, we have very little (if any) true influence in the outcome.
I am learning again to lean on Jesus. Maybe I’m actually learning this really for the first time! As I pondered this thought today, I thought I’d share some encouragement on how to peacefully navigate a situation outside the realm of your control.Submit
1. Relinquish Control.
I know I already said it was a situation outside of your control! And it is! But sometimes, there is power when we forcibly admit that cannot control something or someone. There is also an emotional release on actively laying down control. Maybe what we are doing is actually laying down our “need” or “desire” to control. Either way, I think there needs to be an intentional acknowledgment of the fact that we have to let it go…the situation, the person, the outcome….whatever it is. We have to let it go.
I’ll also say that we prolong our suffering when we keep trying to find ways to manipulate and control – even when we have the best of intentions. I truly, strongly dislike admitting that I cannot alter someone or some situation by my influence. So…I often keep trying…like the proverbial beating of my head against a wall. And so the pain and discomfort continues. The release comes in relinquishing… Luke 12:25-26 says:
Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?
2. Submit Again to God’s Sovereignty
While I recognize that this one may be similar to the first, I do think they are distinctly, emotionally different. The one is a release, the other is an intentional affirmation and submission.
The moments that I waste in screaming over things that I cannot change are at the least, useless, and the most, they are sinful because I am acting as though I am sovereign over my own life. I feel that we in Western civilization, and especially Americans, grow up believing that we can do, have, or be anything. And while on the surface, this seems laudable, if we peer more closely, we can see that this is not biblical. If we are truly submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then we desire to only do, have, or be those things that He intends for us. We are not free agents; we are bond servants. In other words, we have chosen to lay down a life of doing things our way for our pleasure to instead do His things for His pleasure.
Reaffirming our position as utterly submitted to the Lord, ironically, removes the angst we feel when distressing situations arise. He is in control, therefore, He allowed this situation. He is my Lord, therefore, I submit to His outcome.
Proverbs 19:21 says:
You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.
3. Manage your emotions through prayer.
I didn’t mean to make these a sequence, but if you have already accomplished the first two suggestions in this list, this third will come much easier. Some of us experience all of life through big emotions… And we have to constantly wrestle the control of our thought-life away from these emotions.
God obviously gave us our feelings; they preclude us from a robotic existence, and traverse the divide between mind and spirit, I believe. Yet they are meant to be informers rather than directors. They give us an inside view of what’s really important to us.
But our emotions can be terrible taskmasters and destructive dictators. When we encounter a situation outside of our influence or control, our emotions erupt. Especially when the outcome has a life-altering effect. This is why I said we must manage our emotions though prayer. To me, this feat of maintaining peace and joy in the midst of turmoil is only possible through divine intervention. Prayer. God won’t intervene where He’s not asked. We must continually ask for His help to keep our emotional equilibrium.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)
4. Refuse to be Consumed by the Issue.
Again, this is connected to #3, certainly, but a different approach. This is about mind-control which then becomes behavior-control. We cannot stew and stew and obsess over the circumstance and still expect to experience abiding peace and joy.
While again we must turn to the Lord in prayer for help with controlling our thoughts, I also offer some practical advice: find something else to do. I know, profound! And maybe only those who are most like me will understand. But I have a very obsessive nature, and I am also a problem-solver. What this often looks like is me giving a lot of thought-time to something until I have reached an acceptable solution. I will turn it over and over and over in my head…looking at all angles. Considering creative possibilities. Justifying decisions. Mentally following first one path and then another, and then another….predicting possible outcomes. I can lose myself for hours, literally, working a situation to death.
Now, while this intense focus has a sure positive attribute, the negative is apparent: I easily become consumed by “the thing” to the exclusion of all the other things. And…as the previous scripture noted: I’m not even able to add one moment to my life by worrying about the situation!
Whatever it is, you simply cannot allow your life to revolve around it. I know there are all kinds of situations that people may be facing, and many may be much more intense and far-reaching than what I am facing. However, we cannot afford to be consumed by something we cannot control. Only God sees and knows all things, the very end from the very beginning, and we must rest in his sovereignty. Find productive hobbies to divide your focus. It may almost feel sacrilegious to you to give time to anything else, but I do strongly feel that as long as you’re not neglecting God-given responsibilities, you need to be able to turn your attention away from this life-disrupting thing. Look at the life of Job… After his utter devastation, at the end of the day, he still had the Lord. And that was enough.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-3)
5. Seek Godly Support
At first, I was going to use the word encouragement. But I didn’t, because I feel like in Christian circles, this often translates as mere words and prayer for someone. And while these things are good, often what is really needed is actual, physical support. A friend to talk to, to safely be vulnerable with… A meal… A support group… Someone to babysit…Someone to clean your house…
Yikes. Even as I type out all of these things, my skin crawls with discomfort! How horrible is that?! I really don’t like being truly vulnerable and I really hate asking for help! And yet – I know God has called the Body to serve one another. I am much more comfortable being asked for help rather than appearing “weak” and asking someone else. But in this rough spot where I am, I find I must reach out for help.
And this is not a bad thing; on the contrary, it is very, very good, and biblical. Does it bother you when someone asks you for help? If so, why? Peer into your own discomfort and then see if you can grow through it. If you can discard your distaste for the requests of help from others, perhaps you will be more inclined to ask for help yourself.
I know, I know. Social media. We think everyone else has their lives all put together and is completely self-sufficient. Lies. People, they are lies! No one is utterly self-sufficient. And while we may have seasons where most everything seems great in our lives, rest assured, these seasons are temporary and hardship will arise again. It’s just real life. Don’t allow the lies of media, culture, and even Satan himself keep you from reaching out for the life-preserver of true, godly support.
We can all take comfort in knowing that everyone experiences difficulty in life – regardless of what it seems like. And for those of us who walk with the Lord, we are never alone in these stormy seasons. God is on our side, and He is never powerless!
Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!