Do you ever have seasons where it appears as though everything that was supposed to go one way goes the opposite? Your nightly bowl of popcorn has an unpopped kernel that fractures a tooth, that needs to be pulled, and an implant put in. Your new exercise routine that is supposed to get you in shape tugs you a little too far, and you are sidelined with an injury. Your well-laid-out plan to renovate your kitchen (finally!) is set to start, and the night before—while you are on vacation to avoid the demolition week—the crew texts that they are sick and cannot start for two more weeks. The child you have been praying for makes some questionable choices with unseemly consequences, which devastate you.
Sometimes life throws very big curveballs, and suddenly, it all feels very out of control. The hiccups of life can add up, drop our defenses down, and bring forth the idols that we unknowingly have been worshiping. And the Lord, in his kindness, has recently shown me that I have been worshiping the idol of control.
One morning, I picked up my Bible and came upon this passage in Deuteronomy 1:6-8, “The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’”
Stunned, I reread the line, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” The Holy Spirit moved in, and I got the message. This was intended for the Israelites, but it was also intended for me. It was time to move on. I had stayed on the mountain of control (and its partner—fear) long enough. In fact, I had set up a pretty nice dwelling at this point. I didn’t want to live there, but I couldn’t see my way down.
If you look up the word control, its synonyms are pretty serious: clutch, grip, dominate, administrate, regulate, supervise. It’s pretty obvious those words aren’t too healthy, let alone scriptural. Is this what I’m doing with the circumstances and the people in my life? Am I clutching them in my hand so tightly that the Lord is prying my fingers open so I don’t suffocate them in the meantime? When life feels out of control, some of us have the tendency to dig in deeper, to orchestrate events, to insert ourselves into situations to “make them more palatable.” But the Lord speaks very clearly about control in his Word. And he also tells us what he intends to do with our idols.
When the Lord uproots, he replaces. When the Lord weeds out, he replants. When the Lord convicts, he equips. The Lord takes the rotten fruit out of the fruit bowl and puts something fresh in, something healthy, something desirable and good.
What is the replacement of the need to control? Perhaps the opposite of control is surrender. The reality is that I never had control. Life really is out of my control. Did you see the italics? Life is not out of control, just out of mine. But that’s why the Lord addresses this in Scripture. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says in the NIV, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Wow, it “does not fear.” Because it trusts in the Lord.
The Lord had a new land for the Israelites, a land of freedom and flourishing. He told them in Deuteronomy to take possession of it. To claim it as their own.
Lord, let it be so for all of us: to move from our mountains where we have stayed long enough, into the good land you have set before us, knowing you will be our fire by night and our cloud during the day. Help us to trust you and hold our hands open as we continue to walk on.