And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
— Ephesians 4:11–16
I am a church brat. My mom’s water broke in the church parking lot, so I was literally almost born in church. I have been a member of a church since the day I was born. I have been to every type of camp, attended every auxiliary, and participated in numerous lay renewals. I understand that you may not know what all of those things are, but I do, and that’s the point.
My parents could take me to a building, they could make me memorize Scripture, and they could call me a church member, but none of those things had any spiritual significance in and of themselves. What I ultimately needed to join the Church was a spiritual birth.
You cannot join a church. You can join an institution that calls itself a church, but you cannot join the Church. A person has to be birthed into the Church. Notice the terms that the Bible actually uses to describe the Church: the body of Christ, the family of God, the fellowship of the saints. These are all dynamic, living metaphors that illustrate the integral part that each of us plays in the church. Each of us is called, not merely to go to church, but to actually be the church, every member playing their part as a growing member of the body of Christ.
God has called each of us into this family to play a specific role. It doesn’t matter how religious you were in the past. It only matters if you respond to His call in the present. This is the spiritual maturity to which we are all called, both church brats and not.
As we close out our Out Of Control series, many of us might still have questions about circumstances or events in our lives that cause chaos. I know I do! I look at my life and see some pretty hard things, like losing my brother to cancer while I was finishing high school, and my parents divorcing when I was 6. But I also see the great things, like a family that loved me, a great church in which to grow up, an amazing wife that has made me better, and my kids that bring such joy to my life. Through all of these things, good and bad, God has continued to draw me into his plan for my life. The hard, chaotic things, and the great things I have experienced are used by God to mold me into exactly who he wants me to be.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28 NIV
One of the most important lessons I learned in the Out Of Control series is that we all need a more powerful influence in our lives than ourselves. I want to put my trust and faith in a God who sees, knows and created me. He knows what I should be doing.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
— Ephesians 2:10 NLT
He has the big picture.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
— Psalm 139:16 NIV
And he will even put me back on track when I fall.
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand. — Psalm 37:23–24 NIV
It seems that he would be much better at being in control than me!
Ask yourself these three questions:
Close today with a simple prayer of submission and humility. Something like this: God, I am not able to carry the load of this world alone. I do not have the answers to life’s questions and challenges. I need your help and I want to surrender my fight to be in charge and allow you to be in control of my life.
Have you ever felt out of control?
• Maybe you’re involved in things you shouldn’t be, and you’re not sure how to stop.
• Maybe you have a child gone wayward, and you feel responsible somehow.
• Maybe you are responsible in some way, and that’s what bothers you the most.
• Maybe you want to get married, but can’t find the one.
• Maybe you thought she was the one, and she walked out.
• Maybe you can’t get pregnant, and you’ve been trying for a very long time.
• Maybe you’re pregnant, and the timing is not good.
• Maybe you’ve done terrible things, or maybe you’ve made huge mistakes.
• Maybe you’ve lost someone you shouldn’t have lost.
• Maybe it’s not fair. Maybe it’s not right. Maybe there is nothing you can do about it.
• Maybe you’re sad, scared, angry and overwhelmed.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
— Matthew 4:37–41
I don’t know what your storm is, but I know mine. There was a time when it was absolutely terrifying. I had no idea what I would do or how to do it. I was so far out to sea, I was sure there was no going back. My life was drowning.
There is something to note about the disciples’ reactions in this story. They were terrified, not only by the storm, but by the calming of the storm. The power of Christ is terrifying. Sometimes we hang onto the illusion of control in our terrifying storms because what it will take to calm our storm is more terrifying indeed. But keeping things ‘under control’ means, at the very best, maintaining a sense of self delusion and, at worst, lying and deceiving those you love for fear of shattering your life and theirs. Either way, it is exhausting — and eventually, you will drown.
I was so much more scared of relenting to God than of my own hurricane that it took me five years to gather the courage to answer his calling. When I did, he immediately calmed my storm. He didn’t take away consequence, but he set in place healing. The strange calm was surreal and miraculous. It left me asking, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.” (Matthew 4:41)
There is one thing that I know now that I never knew when I “had control”: I can trust God. Whenever there are times in my life where I feel chaos creeping in, and I am tempted to take over, I remember the miracle of peace that God left me with. Sometimes God lets our storms rage as a way of teaching us to trust him and to rest in his arms.
Trust in the Lord.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
— Joshua 1:9
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
— Matthew 4:38 NIV
For the longest time, I had a hard time grasping exactly how God cared for me. Like, cares specifically for me and not just cares for me grouped in with all of humanity in a “God cares for you in a general sense” kind of way. This probably stems from the fact that I am not a naturally caring, empathetic or even sympathetic person. I mean, don’t get me wrong — I care for people. I really do. If I had the ability to choose, I would choose for most humans not to have a bad day. Most probably being a keyword. So, yes, I care for people. The problem is that, most times, I don’t necessarily care about their problems. It’s been a struggle of mine for as long as I can remember.
For example, my initial thought to someone who has recently broken their arm isn’t, “My goodness, that’s awful.” My knee-jerk reaction would be, “I don’t see your problem. Cast on, then cast off. Problem solved. Why go on and on about it?”
Lost your whole arm? “Ever heard of prosthetics?” Prosthetics won’t work with your injury? “Isn’t there a guy in the NFL with one arm who catches footballs?”
As you can probably discern, this is not the type of banter that strengthens friendships or gets you decent gifts from family at Christmas.
This line of thinking further ignited my thoughts on God’s concern about my minute little life on this planet. Financial crisis? Why would it even put a red flag up on his radar? Me losing my home isn’t going to topple the cosmos into chaos. Stressed about a diagnosis? I’m but a mere speck in creation. Why would my problems be the least bit concerning to the ruler of the universe?
Maybe God watched me struggle with this. He probably watched and cringed, over and over, at the robotic, pre-programmed “caring” words exiting my mouth as I would say with cyborg-like inflection, “I’m sorry that happened to you. That must really suck.” Hey, I was trying.
Then God gave me children and sat back and watched the empathetic section of my brain start to flicker. Like the grinch’s heart that was too small, my anterior insular cortex was finally beginning to grow. (Yes, I googled it.) And I can say with certainty that I have never cared for and been more concerned for someone else’s well being ever in my life than at the very moment my daughter came to be. I buckled in pure agony the first time she got a scrape on her knee. I would fight back my own tears every time she cried at a doctors visit. She dropped her ice cream cone once and all I could think was, “Why her?”
What was happening to me? None of these things were necessarily my problems, and none of these things were even life altering problems for my daughter, but I cared! I cared oh so much.
Then I had a second daughter, and the process repeated. And guess what: I cared just as much at her minute little problems as I had cared for her sibling’s. If I had another, I would care. If I had five, 10, 15 children, it wouldn’t matter. I would care for every ounce of their little lives with every ounce of me. If we are indeed God’s children, which he has stated over and over, how could I ever question the amount of care he has for me?
I can’t say I’m a master at being empathetic yet, but I can tell you that I now better know what it means to care, and I know without a doubt that God cares.
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are…
— 1 John 3:1 NASB
What is the worst storm you have ever been through? Was it the loss of a loved one, a job failure, financial trouble, physical illness, mental illness, a failed marriage or an addiction? The truth is, none of us are exempt from the storms that life throws at us. Even the disciples, with Jesus by their side, encountered various storms (Acts 7:45–60 and 2 Corinthians 11:25).
The hardest part about walking through these storms is feeling like God doesn’t care. Feeling as though he is taking a backseat and watching as your problems take control of your life. As grief, fear, anger and sadness take over, we desperately cry out to God, pleading with him to take this burden from us, and it seems as though he is nowhere near.
Life isn’t always fair, and it often feels like we walk out of one storm and right into another. After all, when it rains, it pours. Sure, we can watch the weather forecast and avoid some of these storms with wisdom, foresight and prayer, but that doesn’t always protect us from the unforeseen storm coming our way. The first letter of Peter warns Christians that we will face many kinds of suffering and that our faith will be tested, so it should be no surprise that storms might be coming our way. If anyone can relate, Jesus can. Not even Christ himself was exempt from the pain and suffering that this world has to offer. He knew exactly what he was doing as he was beaten and tormented while nailed to the cross, yet he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It is easy to ask this question in the midst of our suffering, but what we need to remember is that we don’t have the foresight to see the plan that God has for us. In the midst of the pain and suffering, we are unable to see the beauty of what God has in store. Time and time again, when I encounter a storm, I find myself looking back in awe of the beauty that comes from the ashes. Redemption, healing, closeness, reconciliation. I’ve experienced all of this and more after some of the biggest storms of my life, yet in the midst of it, I find myself repeating the same patterns of fear and doubt as I feel the weight of the storm upon me. For so long, my fear has been so much bigger than my faith, but through each storm, I am learning that he really is in control. This is all in his plan. I am learning to give my fear, anxiety, sorrow and pain to him because he truly does care even when we feel alone and abandoned (1 Peter 5:7).
There is no doubt that the storms will come, so when the clouds start rolling in and the wind begins to pick up and the rain comes crashing down upon us, hold out for that rainbow. Hold onto his promises and trust that his plan is far greater than ours could ever be and that without the rain, we wouldn’t appreciate the sun.