As the COVID19 pandemic continues on, people around the world are struggling with the restrictions set in place by their governments to stop the spread. Much of our anxiety is rooted in the fact that the situation is far outside of our control. This cuts to the heart of humanity; our trials remind us that we do not have complete control of our lives. So much of the “human struggle” comes down to dealing with the fact that we are not God. This week, as Americans continued to process the challenges and uncertainty of the situation, I heard the advice that, in order to cope, we should focus on controlling what we are able to control. At first, this seemed like sound advice. Each of us has facets of life that we are still in charge of, even in the midst of crisis. But the more I thought about it, the more this philosophy bothered me.
Real peace doesn’t come from controlling what you can, it comes from surrendering to the One who controls everything. When our view of God is correct, and we know that He is both sovereign in the earth and loves us more than we understand, we can have perfect peace, knowing that He holds our lives. Controlling what you can control may ease some anxiety, but it is only creating an illusion. I do believe that we should be disciplined in how we live, and we should take responsibility to handle those things which are up to us. In fact, I have learned that a self-disciplined life is a happier life. When we get ourselves to do the necessary or beneficial things that we don’t feel like doing, we are happier for it. But we shouldn’t be doing this to create an illusion of control. Trying to control what we can is a way of thinking that actually leads to disordered behavior.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
The truth is that, while we have responsibility for how we live, we are not in control of our circumstances. We are, however, in control of our response to circumstances, and more importantly, our response to the One who Is in control. We can respond with submission to God and worship, or we can reject the God-centered view and try to cope on our own. The person who is focused on controlling what he can may be doing a lot of the same things as the person who has surrendered to God’s will. The difference is what is going on inside. The one who is trying to have some control is putting on blinders to the real scheme of things. Anxiety will keep creeping in as aspects of life remind him that he is not really in control. The surrendered heart has more peace. When reminded of the difficulties that are outside of his control, he will pray and cast the concerns on God. We can cover up our human problem and mask the symptoms by trying to make ourselves feel like we are in charge, or we can hand our lives over to God and say, “Not my will, but Yours, O Lord!”
When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?
Each of us who chooses to follow Christ should be walking a journey of increasing faith that leads to increasing peace. As trials remind us that we are not in control, we should seek comfort and strength knowing that our God, who loves us, is ruling over all circumstances. The more we get to know Him and His excellence, the more comfort and peace we will have. God being in control is so much better than Him letting us be in control. He is greater in wisdom, love, benevolence, and every good thing. There is something to be said for realizing that we would not do a good job if we were in control. God had to do a lot of work on me to get me to understand that point, but I have been so much happier since I learned the lesson. Of course, it isn’t a lesson that you just learn and then move on. As new situations arise, I have to remind myself to surrender to Him. I have to keep before me the truth that His ways are better than my ways. As time goes on, it gets easier. The more I study Scripture, the more clearly I see, as David our psalmist did, how exceptionally trustworthy God is.
My prescription for peace in the midst of this craziness is to surrender to God. Seek peace, wisdom, and strength from the One who gives these in their most perfect form. Only then, move on to the business of living and doing what you can within the circumstances, knowing that God can be trusted in everything. With Paul, we should say, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:12-13) Jesus Christ is my “coping mechanism” in a crisis. The song for this week is Chris Tomlin’s Sovereign: “God whatever comes my way / I will trust you.”