Humans love order and control. We crave it, actually. And it’s not such a bad thing to have order and control in our lives.
God clearly indicates that order matters. The account of how the earth was made, the order in which he created the world and everything in it; even the grand plan to save us – there is order within all of these things so we can be confident that wanting order, structure and control are normal and good.
Order creates a structure for us to live well, achieve goals and plan for the future. Control helps us to set aside other desires to have something more important and also helps us to be disciplined.
But what happens when we lose control? When our structure slips away and we’re left with nothing but trusting God?
How do we manage the limbo – the space in between where we were, and where we’re going? We are often called by God to trust him and follow his leading and we’re pretty good at doing that. Until he covers our eyes and we cannot see where we’re going.
Until he removes the structures we’ve built to keep our world intact.
Losing control seems to instigate one of three primary emotions:
Paul talks about being content and in Philippians 4:11-12 he states that he has learned how to be satisfied to the point where he is not disturbed or uneasy, regardless of his circumstances.
But before we can live out Paul’s experience and truly understand Matthew 6:31-34 (be anxious for nothing), we need to look at the emotions we’re experiencing during this time as they can be standing in the way of us having a healthy belief in God as provider and sustainer.
Getting to the bottom of our emotions
It’s all well and good to say ‘just trust God’ but it’s not always that easy. I’m sure, like me, you’ve uttered these words a thousand times but if we already have a negative default view of God as Father, it’s going to swing us toward the emotions that belief conjures. Uncovering and dealing with this first enables us to then accept a new mindset that we can build a foundation of trust on.
So how do we know what kind of mindset we’re dealing with? Let’s first look at these three emotions.
A feeling of fear can present itself through feeling anxious, worried or abandoned. It’s the feeling you get when you’re responsible for a big project’s outcomes; before a crucial exam that you’re not feeling prepared for and the perpetual gnawing in your stomach when settling into a new community. With each of these examples (and there are plenty more, of course), we can see a common thread.
What if I can’t cope? What if I fail? What if they don’t like me?
Fear seems to always have that companion, What if? so if you have a sense that this question is accompanying your thoughts, fear is probably the root cause of it.
Anger is often presented through feeling offended, frustrated and looked over. It rears up when we are accused of doing something wrong, when we don’t see the outcomes we were expecting and when we are ignored. Anger has a root mindset that says:
‘I am unwilling to change my position on this’
and can be the cause of inflexibility, unfinished projects, broken relationships and issues with our general health and wellbeing.
Anger can feel empowering and is often accompanied by its friends, disgust, pride and a desire to reject anything that doesn’t fit into its agenda in order to stay angry. In fact, staying angry gives us a sense of control, and this is a sure indication that we are seeing our relationship with God through this unhealthy lens.
A lot like fear, despair is usually accompanied by anxiety and feelings of sadness, disillusionment, fatigue and numbness. Despair, when left unresolved, can lead to depression, and this, untreated, can lead to clinical depression and complex anxiety.
Thoughts such as
‘I just can’t do it anymore; I feel lost and exhausted; I’m just not cut out for this’
and the like, tend to be partners with despair. It’s just all too hard. It’s not worth trying anymore.
Despair keeps us down, unmotivated to change, and unproductive. It is insidious, smothering us and controlling our capacity to believe change is even possible.
Acknowledging the beliefs guiding our emotions
Which of these emotions do you recognise in your own journey? You’ve probably experienced all three, and I dare say there are probably more emotions that rise up when we lose control, but for now, we’ll just focus on these ones.
If you’re currently experiencing a time of uncertainty, ask yourself:
Do I believe that God, as my Father, cares about me?
If you answered yes, then ask yourself this question:
Do I believe that God, as my Father, will carry me through this time of uncertainty?
If you answered yes, then ask God to show you why you’ve lost your peace. It could just be that something has gotten out of alignment in your thinking or that the enemy is pressing your emotional buttons to get you off track. Spend time with God and ask him to reveal what’s happening.
If you answered no, then consider this:
Our fear, anger or despair comes from a belief that God, as our Father, isn’t going to come through for us; that he doesn’t actually care enough to make sure we’ll be okay.
This sentence might sting. If it does, that’s okay! Because it means that we are working toward the cause of your emotional disruption and this is where you get to build a new kind of belief system about God, as your Father.
You see, when we have a healthy relationship with God, as our Father, we know it. We experience peace and we feel no fear despite the circumstances. Disruptions, uncertainty and unpredictable events just don’t have the same impact they have when we’re struggling in our relationship.
Let me be clear: this is not about works; about earning a relationship level with God. This is about recognising that what Jesus did on the Cross gave us 100% access to having a pure and beautiful relationship with our Father and a life where we can completely trust his plans for us, even when we can’t see them.
Living in limbo yet being at peace
So take the emotion you’re experiencing right now in your circumstances and let Father show you what’s going on in your heart. If you’ve had a difficult relationship with your earthly father, this may be influencing how you view your relationship with your heavenly Father. That’s okay. He wants to guide you into a new understanding and experience of him. This process may be painful but is incredibly powerful and transformative.
If you feel that you need to do this with a companion, or counsellor, then do so.
As you reflect and spend time with God about your feelings surrounding the uncertainty you’re experiencing, observe your emotions and how they change. When you begin to let God change your default belief system and embed a new one into your heart, you’ll experience at least three things:
- You’ll begin to feel more secure
- You’ll start to experience a deeper level of peace
- You’ll find yourself feeling more hopeful about the future
God desires to bring each one of us into a relationship with him that no uncertainty can shake. He is our fortress, our refuge in time of need. He is also the ultimate project manager, knowing all the ins and outs of our daily lives and where each road along the journey is going to take it. He’s got it sorted. We’ve just got to let go and let him show us.
I’ll leave you with just one task that I think will help you move away from the fear, anger or despair you’re currently experiencing. Read Philippians 4:8.
Read this daily. Speak it out. Get these words into your heart. Don’t be concerned if you don’t ‘feel’ anything to begin with. Just trust that God has something to show you in these scriptures and that he will reveal his heart toward you.
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]. 9 The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you.
May you be blessed today and filled with peace always,