Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
— Proverbs 3:5–6
There is something in most of us that loves control. We want the steering wheel, we want the remote control, we want the keyboard, and we want the checkbook. We like to be in control. And this is extra true when it comes to managing the biggest areas of life. We like to figure out ways that we can make decisions that control the outcomes.
The problem with this is that you and I were never meant to be in control. We were not designed with that kind of bandwidth. The reality is that we were designed to trust God to be in control, not to be in control ourselves.
The proverb writer warns us of this in Proverbs 3. He tells us that we are to submit all of our lives to the Lord. We are to trust him completely with all of our lives. To go a step further, he tells us not to “lean” or trust in what we understand. In other words, we are not meant to be in control. We are meant to be in submission.
I love leadership. I love books about leadership, and conferences about leadership, and talks about leadership. I think the importance of leadership can not be overstated. However, despite my love of leadership, I have spent most of my life trying to learn how to follow. Our first calling is not to be in control, but to be in submission. We are to submit every part of our lives to our Heavenly Father daily, who in turn promises that when we do that he will make our paths straight.
Today, why don’t you practice giving up control. Why don’t you put your full trust in God.
He’s better at control anyway!
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
— William Ernest Henley
It was the mantra of the ‘60s and ‘70s. “Do your own thing,” we chanted. “If it feels good, do it.” We wanted to be in the driver’s seat of life, a self-governing, autonomous, if-it-feels-good-do-it generation, answerable only to self. Moving forward into the ’80s, when Nike began pushing their line of apparel and footwear with the slogan “Just Do It,” we tipped our glasses in agreement to the idea and done just that.
Me, I was a young believer on my maiden voyage into the ever-deepening waters of sanctification with a recurring problem: I kept drifting back into those old habits, doing my own thing. The truth is, I wanted to hang close to shore and never indeed loosed my vessel from its moorings. As expressed by Henley in the classic poem, Invictus. I continued to choose my course in life. I would make the decisions, I would relinquish the captain’s chair to no one.
My prayers were entirely different from the ones Jesus prayed — the opposite, actually. As in Gethsemane, he prayed, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). My petitions would sound more like, “not your will, but mine be done.” And that seemed to work out pretty good until God must have cleared his throat and said, “Okay, Pat, you got it. Your will be done.” How different things became.
Life under my command was a train wreck. Spiraling out of control, each day sinking deeper into darkness, I found self-rule equaled self-destruction. Sex, drugs and alcohol exacted its due fare with one broken relationship after another, multiple marriages, always robbing Peter to pay Paul and continuously dodging the bill collectors. You might say I was the 20th-century version of the prodigal son (read the story in Luke 15). God allowed me to have the control I wanted, that I might learn how quickly life spins out of control when he is not in the driver’s seat.
Believer, young or old, don’t let your life become a train wreck. If you need help turning the reins over to God as I did; may I suggest the advice of Lauren Gaskill who writes:
“If you’re like me and you crave control, the remedy for change is prayer. Go to God and be honest — tell Him how you feel. Say, ‘God I confess I like being in control. It makes me feel safe and secure. It makes me feel like I have a purpose. But I know that being a control freak isn’t going to get me anywhere. Help me surrender control to you each and every day. Help me trust in you deeply, so that I will not fear surrendering that control. Help me remember that you hold it all.”
“Here, let me help you.”
“No! I can do it myself!”
Anyone who has ever been the parent of a toddler has heard these words so many times, that we can almost hear it in our sleep. (Parents, I can almost see you chuckling as you read this and nod your heads.)
From tying their own shoes, to cleaning themselves after they use the restroom, to dressing themselves, the list of tasks that these tiny, uncoordinated humans want to accomplish independently is quite extensive. Unless we are in a hurry, we see the majority of these autonomous requests as a good thing.
That is, of course, until it is something dangerous. Then we become far less open to leaving them to discover it on their own. Though our little adventurers would love to help us cut the vegetables, start the gas grill, or sew a patch on their ripped pants, we know better than to just hand them over the knife, lighter, or sewing needle. You know exactly what I’m talking about.
Kids at this age are just doing their best to figure out the environment around them, but you, oh parent, are much wiser and more skilled than your spring chicken. Over time, you have developed knowledge and wisdom to do things the right way, the safe way, the efficient way. When they are insistent on wanting to do it on their own, you just want to help guide them to the path of least resistance.
But good luck trying to get them to understand that.
What if I was to tell you that this is exactly how God is with us? If God is all-knowing and all-wise, then there isn’t any person, no matter how old or wise they are, that is beyond the need for God’s instruction and guidance. Yet most people act as if they are. At their own expense.
The world we live in is full of adult-sized toddlers. People who, through their actions, are telling God, “I don’t need your help! I can do it myself!”
This happens in two ways. The first, are those people that are attempting to accomplish God’s instruction and guidance on their own willpower and methods. They are, in a sense, trying to earn merit with God through their actions. But their methods will always fall short. God is morally perfect, and therefore the standard — if we insist on doing it ourselves — is moral perfection. On our own, we will all fall short of God’s perfect standard (Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10, Isaiah 64:6).
Have you ever had a 3-year-old attempt to help you paint, or pour themselves a glass of milk? The results were less than satisfactory, correct? Simple tasks to you, but your kiddo was unable to meet your standards.
Now compare that to God’s perfect moral standard, and our attempts to earn his favor on our own, without his help. Do you see the problem here?
The other kind of people are those who don’t even bother to pay any attention to God’s instruction or guidance. They think that God’s grace gives them a free pass to sin whenever they want, or else they are indifferent to God’s desire for a relationship with them. The difficulty for these people is that it is abundantly clear that the evidence of true salvation is a transformed life (James 2:14–19, Ephesians 2:10, John 14:21, John 14:23–24). Good works do not come before salvation, but for anyone who is saved, good works will certainly follow salvation.
Have you ever had a 3-year-old ignore your commands to not run in the street without looking, or to not stick their fingers through the neighbor’s fence with the aggressive dog? This stirred righteous anger in you didn’t it? After all, you only wanted their protection and what’s best for them.
Now compare that feeling you’ve had to all the times you have blatantly ignored or shunned God’s will for your life. See the problem here?
Whether you have proudly attempted to follow God’s instruction without his help, or have simply ignored it all together, we have all acted like adult-sized toddlers. The truth boils down to our deep-seated need to be in control of our lives. To seek self-salvation.
There is only one way to remedy this: give up control.
There are many of us who have yet to taste what the true freedom is that is found in Christ. You want ultimate peace, joy and purpose? Then give the reins over to the only one who actually knows what he is doing. In relinquishing control, you will strangely find the freedom you were looking for all along.
Did you find yourself listening to this past Sunday’s sermon, passively thinking, “This is a really awesome sermon, and I’m sure many people are benefitting greatly from hearing it, but it doesn’t apply to me too much.”? I did. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe it’s denial. Maybe it’s true for you. Maybe you don’t suffer from negative thoughts to the degree that others do. I thought that was true of me.
Then I opened my laptop to look at the comments a professor had left for me on a draft of a paper I had submitted. I was pretty happy about my draft. She wasn’t. She used words like muddy and unclear. Muddy and unclear?!How could she say that? I quickly read back through my draft and suddenly saw that she was right. It was muddy and unclear.
Then the thoughts started:
This went on and on until I was avoiding addressing the problem altogether.
Last night, I remembered that I was to write this devotional and I thought about the topic. There is a tape that plays in our minds that is placed there by Satan (not by my professor). And I was not as invulnerable to his lies as I thought.
It’s true, my draft stank. But all of the thoughts that followed were Satan’s way of exploiting the situation. He is a liar, the author of untruth, and unfortunately, he writes well on my mind. If he could convince me that these things were true, that I was deluding myself with the possibility of success, then he could take out a potential soldier of God.
In times like these, I often look to Job. In addition to making me feel small about making my very tiny molehills into mountains, Job also gives me the correct way to view my circumstances and the correct way to respond. He teaches me to trust God, who always speaks truth and light.
Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.
— Job 42:4–6
Job turned to the Lord, whose mere presence was enough to make him stop questioning his circumstances.
God is present. And what he says is that we are made in his image (Genesis 1:27). He says that we are made for good works, which he prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). And Jesus said that Satan will attempt to deceive even the chosen (Matthew 24:24).
Is your attempt at what you thought to be a good work being thwarted? Are you tempted to give up because you are beginning to believe those voices in your head are true? Stop. Know that the Lord is present. Take his strength, turn around and cast Satan’s words out of your mind.
And, last but not least, if you have never trusted in the Lord, Jesus Christ, as your savior and king, try. Ask him to show you. Open your heart to his love and guidance. Accept his sacrifice for your eternal soul.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
— Ephesians 6:13
One of the most sobering realizations we can come to as followers of Christ is that although our God is greater and has more power and love and wisdom than we could ever even imagine, there is also an evil, supernatural force that can’t be denied. Satan is the enemy, and he seeks out to deceive, destroy, kill, hurt and wreck the lives of anyone that he possibly can. The Bible calls him “the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world… the accuser” (Revelation 12:9–10).
I struggle daily with the fear of actually believing Satan’s lies. Some might think that, as a follower of Christ, it would be common sense that God is good, therefore we should listen to him. And Satan is bad, therefore we should ignore his lies. It sounds simple, but it is something that many of us struggle with more than we would like to admit.
For me, the lie that stood out so prevalently was the lie that I, a single mother, would live the rest of my life alone and empty, paying for my sins. The voice was constant, and it got louder with each passing day. “You are unworthy of love. You are undesirable. You are-used up baggage. No man, especially a Christian man, would want to be with a single mother. Your stretch marks from pregnancy are so unattractive, no man will ever want to look at those. You are going to be alone forever, so get used to it.” These were just some of the things he whispered, and often yelled, into my ears daily. The worst part is that I believed him. I believed everything he told me, even though I knew who I was in Christ. I began to doubt everything I had ever been told and started to accept the fact that what Satan was telling me about myself was true. Little did I know, God had amazing things in store right around the corner.
”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
— Jeremiah 29:11
Sometimes, God speaks to you through others because he knows that you will listen. I will never forget the morning that my mom came to me and said, “God gave me a vision. He has the man that we have been praying for since the day that you were born, but you are not ready for him.” Those were sobering words. All this time, Satan’s lies had infiltrated my life in such a way that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This vision came at a time where I felt like I was hitting a personal rock bottom (self-image/self-worth wise). It came at exactly the moment that God knew I needed it the most, so I started making life changes, went on a 40-day fast and worked on loving myself again and seeking him daily. It didn’t take long until I started to see myself in the image of Christ. My perspective radically changed. I knew I was worthy, I knew I was special and that I was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). The loud roars of the enemy’s lies became faint whispers. I felt new, redeemed, and worthy of love in a way that I never thought possible. It’s as if my spiritual eyes had been opened, and I was able to see clearly for the first time.
Long story short, just a few weeks after the 40-day fast, God answered our prayers in a big way. He brought the man we had all been praying for into my life and the life of my son, and everything has been forever changed. Although God changed my life radically and quickly, even if he had chosen to wait, I still would have been content knowing that it would happen in his time. The ability to see myself as a child of God, one that was so worthy of love and joy and peace, was one of the greatest gifts that I could have received.
My story is one of healing, redemption and love. It has God’s hands all over it. It is a constant reminder to me that God loves me so much and wants me to stop listening to Satan’s lies. Pray about it daily. Seek the truth that our heavenly Father so desperately wants us to hear. Remember, he will reveal the truth if you take the time to seek his face.