Control What You Can

Posted on: June 15th, 2014

There is so much about life I cannot control, where my wishes and wants do not seem like they matter.  I wish I could decide the laws of our land, or at least the leaders of our country, but I cannot.  If it was up to me everyone would put in an honest day’s work and there would be good jobs for people to do.  No one would ever lie to me, speak evil against me, or try to take what is mine.  If I were in control each person would live moral lives and serve God faithfully.

Time is also out of my control and no one knows what is going to happen next.  Even when I decide what to do and when I am going to do it, my plans often go awry.  Who plans to get into an accident while driving to a meeting?  That is never the way I see my travels going.

It can be pretty frustrating when life throws us a curve or when we feel everything is against us.  But rather than sulking over what we cannot control, it is better to do what we can to make our lives happy.  As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons then make lemonade,” but I have tasted some bad lemonade.  So if want good tasting lemonade we need to follow a good recipe.  That is where the Bible comes in; it is our Divine guide for making lemonade when life is hard and unfair.

First, God tells us how to live and what to do to avoid many of the hardships we bring on ourselves.  And so while it is true I cannot control every event in life or how others act, I can manage the way I live.  For example, if I obey the laws of this land I minimize the chance of me getting into trouble.  That is what the Bible says in Romans chapter fourteen, “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?  Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval….”  Even though the courts can get it wrong, I can only control my actions and by doing right I can lessen the chance of me getting into trouble.

Some laws even protect us, as when we obey the speed limit and reduce the chance of being in a wreck.  Or like when parents strap their young children in car seats and cut the risk of injury if they are in an accident.  God’s laws do the same by helping us avoid trouble before it starts.  Who is at a higher risk, the one who follows Satan by acting ugly, or the one who does what God wants by loving his enemy?

I know many believe why be good because others will walk all over you if they think you are weak.  And so, even though it makes no sense, they associate goodness with weakness.  This is not God’s view about doing right.  He tells us if we want to “see good days” then we need to “turn away from evil and do good.” (1 Peter 3:10)  God also says “repay no one evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17)) and “so far as it depends on you live peaceably with all.” (Rom. 12:18)  It’s true, I cannot control what others do, but I can give myself the best chance to live peacefully with others by doing what God says.  Again, it is a matter of me controlling what I can to give myself this hope.

Think about how many problems in life we could solve or cut if we did just what was in our control to do.  For example, if you want a better marriage then do not worry about how your husband or wife is doing because you cannot control that anyway. (Col. 3:18-19)  Besides, even if you feel mistreated how will your marriage be better by you acting ugly?  Remember what you can control and be good.

This is not to say we should be happy when others mistreat us or feel as if we have to resign ourselves to cruelty.  Clearly everyone is better-off and more pleased when all parties behave right.  So if you want people to be nice to you then try being nice to them. (Rom. 12:20-21)

I have heard people say, “I just don’t get anything out of the services on Sunday.”  The preacher is too dry and boring, the singing always drags, and the members just are not that friendly.  You know we can make any excuse not to do the Lord’s Will, but the truth is none of these control what we get out of worship.  I choose to come to services ready, focused, and excited or not. (Heb. 10:25)

If the members are just not that friendly then what am I doing about it?  Perhaps you can be the one member who changes the church to a friendly nature.  You can go to as many visitors as possible and make sure they fell welcomed by you. (Phil. 4:21)  This is what you control.

I want to encourage all of us not to become frustrated over what we cannot control.  Life is too short to worry about these matters and there is too much we can do to become bogged down in something beyond our power.  You control how much support you give to the church, how much time you spend doing the Lord’s work, and how faithful you are to Christ.  Finally, you control where you spend eternity and there is nothing as important as that. (Rev. 22:17)
Terry Starling