Being a parent is sometimes a frustrating experience.
As a parent, you care deeply about your children and you want what is best for them. You want them to mature, make great choices, and ultimately turn into decent human beings. You want them to be respectful, God-fearing, and FAT (faithful/available/teachable). We want all these things for our kids.
At the same time that we want our kids to excel, we feel responsible for their upbringing. Parents have a calling to train up their children in the way they should go, so we spend time planning out, praying for, and executing strategic investments in our children’s lives.
Parents both care for and are called to their children’s welfare. This is not the frustrating part. This is the good part! The frustrating part of life as a parent is not how much we care, or how how much we do. The frustrating part is that we lack control. When we care for and are called to something we cannot control, we have a tendency to get frustrated when things don’t go the way we intend. As a parent, you want your child to make right choices, but sometimes, they don’t. No matter how much you try, no matter how much you care, you cannot control your child’s behavior . . . and at times this drives us crazy. As a parent, you want your child to be influenced by positive forces, yet you cannot control their environment . . . no matter how many filters you have on your internet browser or television or how selective your schooling choices or friend groups are. As the parent of a kindergartner, I get frustrated when I want him to do something and he refuses. I can teach, I can scold, I can admonish, but I cannot make him eat those peas. When we care about something we are called to and we cannot control its outcome, we have a tendency to get frustrated.
This is true in many areas of our lives . . . including our spiritual lives. As believers in Jesus Christ, we care about our relationship with the Lord. We desperately want our lives to be filled with His purpose and glorifying to His name. We also feel some sense of responsibility to live a life of faith and obedience. However, we lack control of exactly what our life of faith will look like. Sometimes things go poorly; sometimes sickness ends in death; sometimes relationships disappoint; sometimes kids wander away; sometimes employment is severed; sometimes life is hard. Sometimes these things happen to people who care deeply about God and try their best to trust and obey. When life is hard, we can get frustrated because we are unable to control our own lives . . . we find out we cannot control our God.
The issue of control (or better our lack of control) is at the core of sinful humanity. I believe it is a universal and epidemic problem that we seldom talk about. Our struggle for control is the root of much of our anger towards God, anxiety towards life, and frustration about our own performance. Over the past month or so as my wife has undergone a kidney transplant, I have felt myself being taught by the Lord about the topic of control. I wrote about this idea over the past month on my blog here and here.
This Sunday morning at Wildwood Community Church in our 9:30 and 10:50 worship services, I will be sharing some of what the Lord has taught me through my experience, as well as through the biblical example of the Apostle Peter. If you are in the OKC area this Sunday morning, I would love to see you at Wildwood. In the meantime, I would love to hear some of your thoughts about this topic in the comments section to this post. I would love to begin to dialogue about this topic as I prepare for Sunday. Looking forward to reflecting on this topic together!
3 thoughts on “Control”
Thanks for this Mark – I’ve really enjoyed and been challenged by your posts on your blog over the past several weeks so am greatly looking forward to hearing your further reflections on Sunday. Praying for you as you prepare.
Like you I think the whole issue of “control” is really critical to our spiritual lives. In many ways I think we live in an inevitable tension, as to a large extent we have to live our daily lives in the world making assumptions as basic as “the sun will rise tomorrow, when I turn on a tap there will be water, when I flip a switch there will be light”. In other words we erroneously transfer our understanding of the physical world (however limited or profound that may be) to the spiritual. All these things add to the illusion (deception) that we can control our lives when the reality is we are all only a moment away from life changing events over which we have no control whatsoever and which can change the course of our lives dramatically and permanently. I think of the tragedy of the Sprogis’ daughter in Latvia and events that have touched and shaped my own life. The miracle of life and blessing of relationships is to some extent shaped by the inevitability of death and subsequent sense of loss. We tend to “hold fast to that which is good” but in my experience that leads to me wanting to “control” and “keep safe” whereas I think we are called to “let go and let God” – to take risks rather than take “hostage” – so the issue of control is also strongly linked to the issue of ownership and our understanding of who God is. Sorry its late and I’m rambling – but feel free to call me if this sparks any thoughts you’d like to discuss further….
We want to control things because we have an idea/a perfect image of what our life should look like. We want to live long lives with our loved ones and we want everyone to be healthy, ect…these expectations or desires are the cause of our worry and anxiety. These desires or expectations can rob us of our present joy and fruitfulness (see parable of the seeds, Matt 13:22) if they are our focus. We want the American Dream, but God has called us beyond that. He has called us to surrender ALL (the good and the bad) to Him. Putting His kingdom first, seeking Him first, keeping Him as our first love. I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard, daily reminders are needed. That’s why it’s so important to renew your mind with Truth daily. Realizing that all can be taken away in a second is hard, but peace is found in trusting Him. Believing who He says He is, and trusting in His goodness.
Like you said Mark, whatever outcome to any situation does not change God’s goodness. And we have to trust that as a loving Father, He has the best plan for our life, better than what the ideal is that we have in our heads. Even if it doesn’t look “ideal” at the time, we must trust that it is for our good and His glory!
So how do we really trust God? We must first know Him. How do you know Him? By reading His Word. You can’t really trust someone you don’t know. In life there are SO MANY unanswered (or unanswerable) questions. But it all boils down to 1. Do you believe God/do you know God? 2. Do you trust Him?
Thanks Mark for speaking on this, it’s so important to understand and so important to remind and encourage each other with these truths.
By giving up my control, I maintain control. It is one of God’s most beautiful paradoxes! Like you said, “Our struggle for control is the root of much of our anger towards God, anxiety towards life, and frustration about our own performance.” We cannot control our God. And in looking back we find…we do not want to. The book of Mark says God is the only one who is good. His is the only good outcome of events. So when I surrender my perception of control (which I did not have anyway) to a good God, I maintain control because–I choose surrender. What a beautiful paradox; like Peter, there is now room for God’s paradigm and plan & my participation in it.
Thank you for sharing your learnings. Perfectly timed; Christian resilience in action.