We need to have every i dotted and every t crossed. We are told to be the masters of our own destiny and take things into our own hands. When things don’t go according to our plans, we analyze every detail to see what went wrong. But what if our destinies are wrapped up in something much bigger than ourselves, and that nothing ever really goes according to our own plans? There is a way for us to be more than control freaks.
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
In what do we put our trust to keep us afloat? Is it the stock market, a career, school, a relationship, friends, or even family? Even more often than any of these, we most often put trust in ourselves. The old adage “if you want something done right, do it yourself” comes to the forefront when things don’t seem to be going to plan.
We live in a culture of go-getters. From an early age we are conditioned to go after what we want, and not to let anyone get in your way.
Not even God.
We can have the best intentions in mind and still be outside the will of God. Consider this verse:
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. (Acts 16:6)
This seems to go against a central theme of the gospel, which is to make disciples of all nations. How could Paul have been prevented by the Holy Spirit from fulfilling his calling? I won’t presume to know why, but it is important to note that sometimes we can even attempt God’s work out of God’s will or timing.
We may even press our way into a ministry without first seeking God’s will or waiting on His timing. There is a tendency for us to ask God’s blessing after we take action rather than asking His guidance and permission before we take a step in any direction. This is a grievous mistake, but one that is prevalent in churches today.
It takes the rightful authority of God over our lives and places it back in our own hands, where we can easily be mistaken or swayed in the wrong direction. It allows doubt to rob us of our faith. God knows what He’s doing; His timing is always perfect. There is no circumstance where we are called to place our will above God’s, even for the most noble cause.
His plan for our lives may not make worldly sense to us. He may shut doors in our face, or take His sweet time in making the path known to us. When we try to take control of the situation, we interrupt the wonderful story being woven. When we don’t see progress, it’s easy to step off the altar and try to officiate it ourselves, but the error in this should be apparent. If we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, we can’t both serve as the sacrifice and the priest.
It is a deceptive illusion to even say we are the ones who take back control. We are so easily tossed about by the waves of our circumstances and culture, that to say we take control over our own lives is really to say we hand over control to the world in which we live. The world tells us we are the masters of our own destiny when, in reality, the world and the flesh are what shape us apart from God.
We have been given amazing freedom in Christ, so why should we give this up for the bondage of this world? When we eliminate the option of taking control over our own lives, the only two choices become clear: we can give up control to the world, which holds the flesh to be king, or surrender complete control to Christ, who brings life.
Our plans will certainly fail at one point or another. The unpredictability of this life should not be an excuse to grasp more tightly at whatever control we still possess. Uncertainty should be cause to lean more fully on God for every decision that must be made.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13-17)
As this last sentence suggests, I am not promoting inaction. Every necessary teaching or principle has been supplied for us through Scripture, and we have been tasked with following through and applying those principles. But before we go beyond the basic tenets of God’s Word and extrapolate what can’t be hermeneutically deduced, we need to be on our knees before God. It is an easy thing to assume something is a worthy cause or calling to pursue, when God actually has something better planned for us. It would be a tragedy to miss out on God’s plan for us because in our arrogance or impatience we lost our way on a desolate, lonely road, mistaking it for a shortcut.
Before you recoil away from the altar, place Christ first, acting consistently with what has been laid out in His Word. Sometimes this will mean going through seasons of discomfort and anxiety, when things have appeared to grow stagnant, or your grand designs have fallen apart at the seams. When your inner control freak wants to rewrite the script, give the pen back to the Author of your story, and embrace the inevitable loss of control.