The wind was howling, my cat was scared to go outside, and right before we were about to start cooking breakfast, the house went dark and all my plans for productivity that day were shot.
I was thrilled and thankful for the rest that was forced upon me. I couldn’t control the weather and therefore couldn’t control the situation, so I enjoyed it. I had cold tea with my husband and we watched our daughter play as we chatted the day away. It felt like a personal memo from God:
“Hey Alicia, just take the day off. Enjoy!”
“Thanks God, I’ll do that!”
Later that day, when the power was restored and life returned to normal, I felt a question nagging at my heart:
“Why don’t I have that same perspective all the time when my plans get derailed?”
When my daughter wakes up early from a nap or needs me to sit with her while she plays, and the laundry stays in the hamper and dinner isn’t made, I get frustrated. I am not thrilled or thankful that my plans are being interrupted. I feel like a failure because things aren’t getting done. Sometimes I even feel resentful towards my daughter.
Why is there such a stark difference between these two scenarios? Why do these feelings of frustration bubble on up?
God has been teaching me that the big difference is CONTROL.
This is a hard one for me to swallow. I cannot control everything, and even more than that, I cannot control anything…eeek.
I want to control. At least, I want to over certain things, like my baby’s sleep. That is why the frustration bubbles up when things don’t go my way. I want to control things that are not mine to control. I trick myself into believing that I’m the one in the driver’s seat, and when my plans get interrupted, I realize I was fooling myself the whole time.
Now you might not have a baby of your own, but I bet there are situations that pop up which frustrate you at your lack of control. Maybe it’s when you keep hitting red light after red light. Maybe it’s when you have to go into lockdown again and spend time away from family and friends. Or maybe it’s when your husband leaves his dirty underwear on the floor. Again.
This year is a great example of a situation that frustrates us and forces us to confront our lack of control. We try to convince ourselves that we still have some shred of it, such as by stockpiling toilet paper – but no amount of toilet paper could stop the deathly hornets or make COVID-19 go away. This has been a hard year of trying to let go and trust that God has got this, even when it looks like He doesn’t.
At first, the realization that you are not in control may make you feel uncomfortable. It may raise questions like, “If I’m not in control, then who or what is?” What I’m about to say may sound cliché or might be a brand new concept, but no matter where you’re at, this truth can change everything if you let it.
GOD IS IN CONTROL SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE.
Notice I didn’t say, “God is in control, you are not.” The control that God has directly affects our lives; that “so” makes a big difference. God is in control so we do not have to carry the burden of trying to be.
“But…” you might say. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that. I’ve got this.”
We all probably know from experience that when we try to be in control, we end up suffering under the weight of it all. We either end up feeling like failures when our attempts blow up in our face, or we completely burn out from trying so hard, for so long, to do something we were never made to do.
But in order for God’s control to sound like good news to us, we have to trust Him and believe that His plan is better. It is no comfort at all to have a stranger you don’t trust have control over your life.
So how can we know that God is trustworthy?
Well, how did you learn that your best friend could be trusted? Because you knew them. You had experience with them that taught you they would keep your secrets. You knew they cared for you and wouldn’t do anything to intentionally hurt you.
In order to trust God, we need to get to know Him better. You may be wondering how to get started.
Here are a couple ideas:
1. Like with any relationship, the key to getting to know someone is to spend time with them. This can mean going for a walk and listening for God’s voice, praying, or reading God’s Word.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. // Psalm 16:11
2. Learn about what is important to God by reading His word. In the Bible you can read about God’s character, His actions, His heart, His law and His desires for you and the world.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. // 2 Timothy 3:16-17
3. Recount all He has done. Sometimes one of the best reminders that God is trustworthy is remembering what God has already done for you.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. // James 1:17
If we want to try and accept God’s invitation to slow down more often, we need to remind ourselves that God is trustworthy. This takes effort, but God promises to meet us as we seek Him.
God has been graciously and gently teaching me to choose to push in towards Him more often; to accept his invitation to slow down, shift my gaze from the chaos around me, and look to Him instead. When I feel that familiar frustration start to boil over, I can either choose to allow my emotions to pull me away from God in that moment, or I can choose to slow down, notice those feelings, and view them as reminders to push in towards God and His greater plan.
This internal shift towards God is an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-prioritize. Once I take a moment to slow down, it changes my entire perspective when I look back at what had frustrated me in the first place.
I become more patient and love my daughter better when I remain focused on God through the chaos. I can see the beauty in the midst of the mess and the purpose behind my place in the messy life that God has blessed me with. When I slow down, the interruptions transform into blessings and my frustration transforms into gratitude.
May we lead lives that are interrupted with accepted invitations to slow down and press in towards the God we know is in control.
And who is always trustworthy.
You keep [her] in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because [she] trusts in you. // Isaiah 26:3