What Do You Do when You Feel Out of Control?

Some seasons, life feels entirely out of my control. My body, no matter how hard I try to control it, does its own thing, pushing me out of my window of tolerance. As we do all that we can, we must trust God to fill in the gaps. My children, as they grow into themselves, stretch their “independence muscles” each day, leaving me in exasperation, wondering how I can influence them and teach them to be functional human beings. Life on this planet is feeling more and more like the Oregon Trail computer games that I played as a kid, that no matter what you do, dysentery is going to send you straight into the ground with a tiny gravestone to mark your passing.

If I believed that I was supposed to be in control of my life, I would careen over the edge of sanity into a pit of despair.

But I’m not. I’m not in control, and I’m not meant to be in control. I cannot control a sick body, under the influence of a dozen plus different treatments. I can not control my level of suffering or the suffering of those whom I love. I cannot control that my husband encountered a virus last month that left him with a type one diabetes diagnosis. I cannot control whether or not we can pay all of our medical bills. I cannot control my body size and that for some reason my body will not stop gaining weight. I cannot control what natural disasters happen where, and what epidemics make their way into my community.

When we, as finite human beings, come face-to-face with the reality that natural disasters are leveling communities, and world-wide epidemics are closing travel in and out of countries;

When our circumstances, our bodies, our relationships, our physical mortality, our socioeconomic status, and our reputation have slipped out of our hands, we have a couple options:

1. We can double, triple, and quadruple our efforts, focusing desperately on things that we can control, worshipping them until we drown in frenzied, panicked dysfunction and self-destruction;

2. Or we can surrender to the One who is redeeming it all. We can do the next right thing in obedience and love, with our hands lifted in intentional, painful surrender, crying out against the desperate push of the flesh, “Not my will, but yours be done.” When all seems to have slipped out of our grasp, we desperately try to find something stable to cling to, something to anchor ourselves to when we cannot discern up from down. But sometimes everything is simply too slippery.

This crisis does not have to be the point of despair. It is not the end of the line. It is actually our place of rebirth: when we die to ourselves and our need to play god, and we cling to the One who sticks, the One who holds us when we lose our grip.

This time, I have been dense. I sought to control anything I could until I was out of options. And then, from the bottom, I looked up and realized that I was never meant to be in control. What a relief. And I started to breathe again as the Spirit whispered in my ear:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.” Ps. 46:1-2

And I also bought some new pants.

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Pastor Al Gilbert

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