Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hope for the Control Freak

The truth from Jeremiah 17:5 that trusting in self leads to a heart that turns from God is deeply challenging. I know it is true because when difficulties build and I respond by worrying and attempting to control my circumstances, my prayer life decreases. Funny how worry and stress can’t grow at the same time as prayer and hope in God. There’s good reason for that—because prayer requires humility. If I really humbled myself before God and acknowledged my need for His grace, I would be given the power to rightly handle the worry, stress, fear or other wrong thoughts.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:7-8

There are a few things that stand out to me in this passage. 
Those who trust in God...
  • Do not fear when the heat comes. No fear of difficulty or trials. No responses of worry or push to control.
  • Are not anxious even in bad circumstances (drought)!
  • Do not cease to bear fruit. God wants me to bear fruit no matter what the circumstances around me are like. Trusting in Him doesn't get rid of the difficulty, but it allows me to grow and bear fruit amidst it.

As I see sinful responses overflow from my heart and as I seek to repent of them and learn to respond biblically, I must remind myself of the gospel. My hope is in the gospel and the truth that Christ has provided everything I need in Him. If my heart battle for control stems from a desire to look good to others, I can release that and know that I am accepted by God because of Christ’s righteousness on my behalf. If I’m worried that I won’t accomplish everything because I want to succeed, I can remember that at the end of the day, it’s okay if everything doesn’t get done. My joy or purpose isn’t based on my performance, but on Christ’s death in my place.

So the hope for "control freaks" is not found in a system or a plan, but in Jesus Christ. Will you hope in Him, or will you fight to control your life?


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Heart of Control Issues

What do you think of when you hear the term “control freak”?
Someone who’s demanding?

In my last post, I shared about the control freak in me. The Bible has another word for the control freak. Proud.

While it may not be 100% of the time, the desire for control generally stems from pride. I think I can control things better than God.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.’” Jer. 17:5

There’s a correlation in this passage—trusting in man or self leads to a heart that turns away from the Lord. In Jeremiah 17:6, the results of trusting in self are described as leading to dryness and deadness, like a plant in the wilderness.

Who is my trust in when I try to completely control my life? When I worry that control is taken away from me? Ultimately, it’s in myself and how I can handle my circumstances, or it’s in other people and how they treat me. Either way, my battle for control shows that my hope and trust is not in God.

Situations may be very difficult. I'm not suggesting that we stuff the difficulties of life to the back of our brains and just "trust God". But as Martyn Lloyd-Jones wisely explains,
"...anything that comes across our path and puts us in difficulty, at once shows whether we believe in Him and trust in Him, by our response and reaction to it." (from the book, Spiritual Depression)

At this point I can ask, what is the response of my heart? Is it displaying trust in God, or myself?

It’s unfortunate that I would let my own desires and feelings of control keep me from turning to the only One who has control—God. But it’s not only unfortunate, it’s sinful. I know, theologically, that God has all power, that He is sovereign. But sometimes I live more like a practical atheist—as though God isn’t even there.

I need to humble myself before God and recognize my inadequacies, my feebleness, my smallness compared to Him. I need to entrust myself to Him, because He has all power and control. I need to purposely think on things that are true and right (Phil. 4:8), and take my thoughts captive so that I do not dwell on my lack of control, but on God's ultimate control. As I see God and His greatness, I can humbly and willingly submit to His perfect plan, even when it contradicts my own.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Control Freak

I don’t realize how much of a control freak I am.

I’m your typical Type-A personality. I like things planned out ahead of time because I think it’s wise. That’s the good twist on it. The honest reality is that I like to plan ahead because it gives me a sense of control.

So this past year as several circumstances have been out of my hands, I’ve noticed more than ever how much I struggle with not having control. It’s so easily justified in my mind: “I’m not worrying, I’m just trying to think through how this will work out.” Except that "thinking through" focuses on me and my plans and neglects prayer. Ultimately, the problem is that I like to have more control over my life than God. My actions reveal an attitude of, “Yes Lord, but let me show you how to do it…”

While there are blessings in our unique personality traits, I also believe they correlate with deep struggles of sin. My drive to accomplish my goals can result in impatience and frustration when my goals are not met. I can respond in worry or fear when I feel overwhelmed that things won’t get done. I can withdraw or lash out towards others who interfere with my goals. I can blame circumstances or people for sinful responses in my heart. Yes, this Type-A personality thing can reveal a lot of sin in me.

The reality is we’re all control freaks. No matter how laid-back you are, each of us is prone to control our circumstances. We think we can manage our lives better than God. And when God’s goals for my holiness impede with my goals of accomplishing something, there is tension. At that moment, I have a choice. Am I going to respond in obedience and trust, seeking the Father and relinquishing my desires to His own? Will I choose to pursue His glory and Kingdom more than my goals and kingdom? Will I trust in my own ability to control my circumstances, or will I rest in God, who has ordained each circumstance for my good?

When I'm tempted to try to control my life or circumstances, I must recognize my need for God's grace. I must pray for a heart that desires to fear God and obey Him rather than fear what will happen if I don't get what I want. "Not my will but Yours be done" must be my prayer. That takes humility and sacrificing my dreams or goals at times. But God's plans are so much better than mine, if I would only trust Him.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

You Will Never Glory in God Until...

“You will never glory in God till first of all God has killed your glorying in yourself.” 
Charles Spurgeon

Self-glory is one of the greatest struggles for each one of us. It’s humbling to see again and again how full of myself I am. I think as Christians it’s easy to throw around phrases like “to God be the glory” or “praise God!” and not even think about the depth to what we're actually saying. We don’t always meditate on God’s majesty and greatness enough to really fill our hearts with wonder at the God we serve, and to bring us to humility. While I would never say this, I sometimes live as though I can tag Jesus on to my self-glorifying plans, instead of submitting my all to Him. I need a greater grasp on the truth that I will never glory in God until I am first empty of myself. God can't fill me while I'm already full of something else—myself.

I see God’s great mercy in Him hand-picking trials and circumstances to kill my pride and self-glory. The last thing I want to do in difficulty is search my heart to identify sinful attitudes and responses, but God gently prods and leads me to do so. My attempts at identifying and killing my sin often fall so short, yet again, His grace is great, and He works amidst my failures and inadequacies, showing me again that it's not about me or my successes, but His grace. 

I don’t understand God’s ways or why He allows some things—but who can claim to? I know only the outskirts of His ways (Job 26:14). He is so far above me. I’m thankful everything He does is good, so I can wholeheartedly trust in Him.