Do you feel out of control?
All of us want some sense of control in our lives. Personalities and approaches differ but we all want to be able to have some sense of what is going to happen and the ability to make it happen. We want to know what the future holds in our work, education, relationships, finances, etc. And ultimately, through knowing, be able to experience a sense of security and peace. If we know what will happen we can manage expectations and outcomes. Even if we know bad things will happen we can prepare ourselves for them both physically and emotionally. Recently we had a weather warning of a hail storm. Our knowledge couldn’t stop the storm but it allowed us to prepare: to cover furniture, to move our car into the garage, to move potted flowers inside. It can also help us to make better decisions if we have a reasonable certainty of what will take place. If we are pretty sure based on the available facts how the market is going we can know if it is a good time to buy or sell a home. If we are confident that a person’s resumé and interview shows they will be a good candidate we can expect a good fit and performance. Knowing what will happen gives us some sense of control, and thus some sense of peace.
The problem is that while some things we may know with certainty (the laws of physics, mathematical outcomes) in reality we don’t really know what’s going to happen in many things. We are often taken by surprise. Our well laid plans are disrupted. Our relationships experience betrayal. Our routine examination shows a hidden tumor. Even something as simple as “the computer crashes” or the power goes out changes the course of a week. Life is filled with the unexpected. Recently as a global illustration of how our ultimate sense of control is an illusion we are all suffering under a pandemic. We have all felt right now just how out of control the world really is. In an almost insane, apocalyptic reality every day when we pull up the news one of the first things shown to us is the death count of our community. It’s not just the world out there we all feel it in our lives. In my family we have had vacation, kids’ sports, and family wedding trips canceled. We have experienced the chaos of everyone working from home. We have felt the loneliness of being physically absent from friends. We have experienced financial loss. These may be minor on the global scale but they are still real. Real disappointment. Real stress. Real loss.
Our control is fragile which means in turn our peace is easily broken. When our feelings of security are tied to our ability to know and manage we will inevitably experience anxiety. How many times has your joy been drained because your expectations were not met? How many times have you felt worried that it wouldn’t work? How many times have you said, “the hard part is not knowing”? When we are uncertain we are unstable. We want to believe that we can know and manage but time and time again our experience has shown us that it’s a gamble. We really don’t know and we really don’t have unlimited ability to bring about our outcomes. This is why we are so often filled with worry, fear, and anxiety. It’s why we can’t sleep at night and turn scenarios over and over in our mind. It’s why some are disabled by fear and what-ifs that we do nothing. And why some are frantic in activity overworked and overburdened trying to bring about the outcomes.
So, is there any way to experience the control we desire? The peace we long for? There is indeed but it has to come from something better than our own limited knowledge and ability. The space between what we want and what we can know and do is what creates worry. But what if we had someone in our life that knew what would happen for sure? What if we had someone in our life that had limitless abilities to bring about outcomes? We constantly search for such people and pay them for their services. People that know the law better than us (lawyers) we pay for their abilities. People that know health better than us (personal trainers, dietician, doctors) we pay to bring about physical health. We pay counselors, coaches, teachers, and all sorts of experts who know more and have greater abilities in specific areas. When we do this, we feel some greater sense of peace and normally experience better outcomes. But there is something even better than this available to us. Jesus promises that we have a Father available to us who knows all, has all power, and cares for those in his family (Luke 12:22-33). He says we are worth more to God than all the ravens that we see fed and all the flowers that we see clothed. We have limited abilities but God is infinite. Jesus says he will feed, he will work for us. We have limited knowledge but Jesus says God knows our needs. He sees into our lives, our minds, our hearts and knows what we need. For today. For tomorrow. We struggle to know. He knows perfectly. And it’s not just that this is who God is but this is who he will be to those in his family. Jesus says, “your Father delights to give you the kingdom” (v.32). He loves to do it. He wants to do it. It brings him joy to care for us.
All of us hope for a life of peace but struggle to have it. On our own our pursuit of control and peace will never be able to fully satisfy. We are limited. We need someone that is unlimited. And in that limitlessness uses it for us. Jesus says we can be a part of this “little flock” (v.31). The greatest sense of peace will not come from knowing we have it under control but that we belong to the one that does.