Control, Coronavirus, and Other Complications of Life

In these day when our news, our social media, and our lives are consumed with the Coronavirus, one thing is painfully clear…

WE ARE NOT AS IN CONTROL AS WE WANT TO BE.

We never have been. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, we have done whatever we could to subjugate and eradicate the feeling of not being in control. And we’re still doing that.

Some try to convince themselves that the government will get control of this. Others repeatedly tell themselves that God is in control of this. And others militantly follow social distancing plans and hand washing procedures to stay in control of this. These are all good things, but they still fall short of putting us at ease and quenching our thirst for control.

 

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR US TO FEEL LIKE WE HAVE CONTROL?

  • We want to feel in control to keep our fear at bay. There’s a lot of fear out there. Health fear. Economic fear. Scholastic fear. Fear is swelling because we feel we can’t control these things.
  • We want to feel in control because we lack trust. We don’t trust our government to make the right calls at the right time. We don’t trust others to do what they should do to keep their distance, or to keep food on the shelves, or to keep helping when we’re in need. Then we don’t trust God to intervene as we hope…despite what we might profess.
  • We want to feel in control, because it helps us maintain a sense of self importance. We want to feel that we’re different and special. But we feel out of control when we realize we’re no different from everyone else.

 

In one way or another, there’s a bit of control freak in all of us. But here’s the thing…

WE ARE NEVER IN COMPLETE CONTROL!

There will always be things we can’t control. It’s a given in life. The quality of our life is not dependent on keeping control of everything, but rather in how we respond to the things we can’t control.

  • It’s not about making fear go away, but rather about going on in the face of fear.
  • It’s not about trusting someone to fix the problem, but rather trusting someone in the midst of the problem.
  • It’s not about being above everyone else, but rather being in it with everyone else.

 

WHAT TO DO WHEN WE’RE NOT IN CONTROL.

Even Christians have control issues at times, but we don’t need to strive for control, because…

  • In the face of fear, we’re told…“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 ESV.
  • In the face of mistrust, we’re told…“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” – Proverbs 3:5 ESV.
  • In the face of self-importance, we’re told…“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11-12 ESV.

Like the rapids in a white water rafting trip, the Coronavirus is part of the trip down stream. It may raise our adrenaline, but we don’t have to be in control of the rapids. We just need to stay in the boat and listen to our guide.

In times of trials, you may not be able to control anything else, but you can control to whom you listen. Whether you’re struggling for control over work, marriage, children,  finances, or pandemics, the questions is still the same…to whom is your heart listening?

1 Samuel 10 – Commitment

have you ever known someone who had difficulty committing to something or someone? Have you ever known someone who says, “I’m in!” but still seems to have one foot out? Have you ever known someone who makes a decision, yet still hesitates to follow through with that decision?

Saul was this type of person, according to 1 Samuel chapter 10. Despite the prophet’s direction and all the confirmation he receives, Saul is still not complete in. You see this in how he stops short of telling his uncle about being anointed as king, and in how he hides when Samuel is trying to make him king. Saul has commitment issues.

Perhaps it was fear. When Saul encounters his uncle, he was in a town where their enemies (the Philistines) had an established garrison. Perhaps his difficulty with commitment was because he didn’t see himself as being worthy or able to do what he needed to do.

As you continue to read about Saul, he seems to wrestle with both fear and a lack of confidence. Yet, Scripture deals with both our fear and our lack of self confidence.

What about you? Where is it you have trouble committing to what God wants you to do? Is your hesitancy related to fear, or to a low view of yourself…or both.

God has already addressed our fear in 2 Tim. 1:7. And God has already addressed our lack of confidence in 2 Peter 1:3.

Always remember…we don’t have to hesitate in committing to what God wants us to do, because… “God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful” (1 Thes. 5:24.)

Deuteronomy 1 – Go and Occupy

Some people make things harder than they have to be. These people complicate things by ignoring suggestions and instructions. They like doing things their own way. They open the box and begin putting pieces together, without reading the instructions.

In Deuteronomy chapter 1, Moses begins a speech to the Israelites who are preparing to cross over into the Promised Land. In the speech, Moses reminds them that the generations before them had made things harder than they needed to be. They had turned an eleven day trip into a forty year trip, because they chose to do things their own way, rather than follow God’s lead.

God had their blessing in hand and was holding it out to them. He promised to pave the way and handle the difficulties they would face. All they had to do was go and occupy.

But their fear and discouragement led them to doubt God. They refuse His direction…and thus His blessing. So the previous generation spent forty years wandering in the wilderness, never receiving what God longed to give them.

I have a feeling I would be shocked and dismayed at how much un-necessary wandering I’ve done, simply because I was afraid to go and occupy. How many times during a single day does God hold some blessing out before me and longs for me to make it my own, only to see me wander and stumble trying to do things my own way.

God, help us to hear the words “Go and occupy” at every turn, and to respond without hesitation.

What is it that God is calling you to do that you’re hesitating to do? Spend this week asking God to give you the courage to step out in faith.

How the Heart of a Marriage Survives a Near Fatal Heart Surgery

In the following guest post by Debbie Latour, you will hear how a married couple faced a dangerous heart surgery and came out stronger in love, life, and faith.

When you’re divorced, middle aged, and are given the gift of happily-ever-after with a second marriage, your optimism for the future is renewed. The birds sing again, the stars twinkle brighter, and the dark cloud of a failed marriage gives way to a clear, bright sky.
As we age, certain aches and pains are expected. However, you do not anticipate that less than a month in to a new marriage, you’d hear that your husband has an aneurysmal ascending aorta. His cardiologist sent us home with the recommendation that its growth be monitored and checked in a year.
For the next year, I watched this incredible gift from God, knowing he had a ticking time bomb in his chest, praying that this was not the day it ruptured and my happily-ever-after came to a screeching halt. I lived that year in absolute fear.

Read moreHow the Heart of a Marriage Survives a Near Fatal Heart Surgery

How Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents

I typically write posts focused on marriage, but this post is going to veer more into the area of parenting. Specifically, parenting teenagers, and more specifically, how teenagers bring out the worst in their parents.

As a former youth pastor, I have a special place in my heart for parents of teens. And, as the father of two grown children, I still have the twitches that can only come from teens or Turretts.

Read moreHow Teenagers Bring Out the Worst in Their Parents

Fearing Forward – The New Year

Some face a new year with much anticipation. Others face a new year with some fear and dread. As you look back over the last twelve months, maybe your life took some hits. Maybe your marriage is still reeling from things you could never have foreseen.

The following guest post by Connie Law Plummer will help you prepare for a new year with new uncertainties.

Generally, I am not in a hurry to put Christmas away.  To me the season passes so quickly that I savor the days after Christmas and enjoy reflecting. Gods love, His care, my blessings, my family, the year that is winding down; all of these fill my heart as I look at the lights on our tree   And usually, I am excited at the prospect of the new year and what it brings. But if I am honest, this year I am feeling something different, something akin to fear.

At what other time of year are we so aware of the passing of time than while we count down to midnight on December 31st?  This year I am keenly aware of all I did not know this time last year.  Though I knew we were adding a new grand baby to our family ranks, I did not know she would require specialists and surgery and emotional strain for all of us, in addition to the joy she brought.   I did not know that I would hurriedly pack a suitcase and make a middle of the night drive to stay with another grandchild in a town two hours away, while his sister was rushed to a major pediatric medical center in another city for emergency surgery.  I did not know that I would pretty much desert my husband for a while to help out at the hospital with the newborn while her mother tended her other daughter, the recipient of that surgery.

As I looked at the Christmas lights at the close of last year, I had no way of knowing that four close family members would step out of this life and into the next so unexpectedly and tragically.  Each death unrelated to the other, and three coming in rapid succession.   I didn’t know that a great deal of my year would be spent loving the people around me who were grieving so deeply.  I didn’t know.

And so, I look at the lights this year, and feel hesitant about stepping forward into next year, like my hesitancy is going to keep time from advancing.  If this year was so costly, how can I dive into another year and risk more pain? So I examine my choices.  Hide out, refuse to take down the tree, and refuse to acknowledge the New Year?   Will that stop anything?  Will that cure my fear?

After sorting through all of these thoughts, here is where I land.

  • When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)
  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
  • For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

So here we go………Happy New Year!

Connie Law Plummer

Genesis 27 – Fear and Striving

Some people are afraid of not achieving what they desire. They picture success as getting the right job, having the right house, raising the right kids, and taking the right vacations. They are driven by the fear of missing out on what they want.
Others are afraid of losing what they’ve already achieved. They pour their time and energy into improving and protecting their house. They hover over their kids, desperately trying to keep their grades up, their company right and their mistakes low. They give up family time for work, out of fear of looming cutbacks. These people are hyper-vigilant and hyper fatigued because they are driven by the fear of loss.
Both types of people operate out of fear, and that’s what they’re left with…fear.
In Genesis chapter 27, Isaac fearfully scrambles for something God has already revealed was his, and Esau fearfully scrambles for something God has already revealed was not his. (Gen. 25:23)
We are so fearful we’re going to miss something, and we work so hard to ensure we don’t miss anything. Scripture tells us this is wasted effort apart from God. (Prov. 16:33) (Prov. 20:24) (James 4:1-3) (James 4:13-15)
In his song “Prince of Peace,” the late Rich Mullins eloquently described our fear and striving with these words: “I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want than take what you give that I need.”
How would your life change if, instead of scrambling to get what you think you want, you instead sought the peace and presence of the God you already have? How would your life change if, instead of trying to protect yourself from loss, you counted it all loss for the sake of something greater? (Philippians 3:7-8.)
Bret Legg is the Teaching and Counseling Pastor at Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, GA.

The Realization

Having vanquished the Wicked Witch, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion return to the Wizard to receive what they have longed for.

Emboldened by their victory, they proudly present the Witch’s broom stick to the Wizard and anticipate their reward. But instead of rewarding them, the Wizard tells them to, “Come back tomorrow.”

Shocked, heart broken, and incensed, they press the Wizard to keep his promise, but they quickly realize he’s not going to. Then Toto pulls back a curtain, to reveal the Wizard is just a man. Discouragement sets in. They have traveled so far and worked so hard. It is not the ending they had expected. It is not the ending they wanted.

Then the Wizard points out to Dorothy and her traveling companions that they already have what they’re seeking. Without realizing it, they have always had these things.

  • The Scarecrow believed he needed a brain, but all along the way he was thinking through situations and coming up with plans to help them succeed. So the Wizard gives him something to symbolize the brain he already has…a diploma.
  • The Tin Man believed he needed a heart, but all along he was was feeling all kinds of emotions…empathy, joy, fear, loyalty, and everything in between. So the Wizard gives him a token of appreciation and a reminder that the measure of a heart is not how much you love, but how much you are loved.
  • The Cowardly Lion believed he needed courage, but all along the way he acted in courageous ways…even though he was afraid. So the Wizard gives him a medal marking his acts of courage and reminding him that courage is not the absence of fear, but the act of facing of your fear.

Finally, it comes down to Dorothy. She has put all her hopes in the Wizard and his ability to show her the road out of Oz and return her home. But in the end, she realizes he can’t do that.

Then, just as she is about to lose all hope of getting home, Glenda the Good Witch of the East arrives and explains that Dorothy has always had the ability to get out of Oz and go home. How? The ruby slippers. They had been on her feet the whole time, but she was so busy with the journey she hadn’t paid attention to what she had. In an act of faith, she clicks her heels together three times and repeats, ”There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” And the strange world of Oz begins to fade.

There will come a time when you feel you have fought and conquered that which was most frightening to you. You will think to yourself, “Surely, when I bring this victory to my counselor, my support group, or my trusted friend, they will bring closure to this ordeal and I can put it behind me.”

Many look to their guide to give them the final piece of the puzzle, so they can step back and see the completed picture then quickly put all the pieces back in the box. But even the most skilled of counselors cannot give you the absolute closure you desire. They are just a person…not a wizard. What they can do is help you realize that despite your circumstances, you have had the brains, the heart, and the courage to make the journey all along.

This may feel anti-climactic and leave you let-down and despondent at first. But a sense of power will show up. You’ll be reminded that what you need is already within you and it will take you wherever you need to go. Is it hope? Is it motivation? Is it God? Whatever it is, you will begin to trust yourself more, and the strange world you have been traveling through will begin to fade.

Facing the Witch

Dorothy and her companions reluctantly leave the safety of the Emerald City to do the unthinkable…face the Wicked Witch of the West. They try to be confident, but are far from it. They travel through a dark and ominous woods, weak in the knees and constantly looking over their shoulders for a much feared attack.

The attack comes as fearsome images begin to darken the sky and swarm around Dorothy and her friends. Dorothy is caught in the clutches of flying monkeys that carry her away to the witch’s castle. There she finds herself alone with the one she has feared and tried to avoid since the beginning her journey…the Wicked Witch of the West.

She fearfully stands face-to-face with the witch. Dorothy wants her freedom and the witch wants what is left of Dorothy’s power and independence…her ruby slippers. Knowing there can only be one winner, the witch threatens Dorothy’s life then leaves her alone to sink into the depths of fear and desperation.

But her friends are loyal and loving, and they will not abandon her. Covering rough terrain and difficult circumstances, they march into the heart of Dorothy’s darkness and break down the door that holds her captive.

Reunited, Dorothy and her friends make a break for it. They try one escape route and then another, but they can’t escape the witch. Cornered by the witch, this innocent little girl unexpectedly discovers the power to destroy the witch. In an attempt to save the scarecrow from flames, Dorothy throws a bucket of water. The liquid redemption drenches the witch, melting her into a puddle of goo on the grimy castle floor.

And with that, the war is over. Dorothy is stunned that something as simple and pure as water could bring the witch’s reign of terror to an end.

With the witch’s broom stick in hand, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion head back to the Emerald City to see the Wizard and finally claim what they’ve longed for. Dorothy will finally take the road out of Oz.

As a survivor, it can feel like a punch in the gut to have come so far and gotten so much better only to find out you still must face the witch. Your witch may be the insult of unfairness and injustice. Your witch may be the failure of others to protect you. Your witch may be the abuser(s) who have seemingly escaped justice and consequences. Your witch is whatever is large, looming, and seemingly unredeemable about your abuse.

Some survivors resist and even refuse the idea they must face their witch, deciding they would rather stay where they are…out of the woods but never really home. Others reluctantly accept it and start down the road to a final show down.

The road to your witch is a dark and frightening path. It can cause your heart and mind to race with dreadful possibilities. That’s why it’s good to travel this road with others you trust. Never underestimate the power and importance of traveling with others. You need their strength and encouragement when the “flying monkeys” threaten to swarm you and sweep you away.

But in the end, if you want to be free, you and you alone must face your witch. And make no mistake, there will be a winner and a loser. Either your witch will own your life or you will.

So what is the bucket of water that will bring an end to your witch’s fearful reign over your life?

It is the water of forgiveness. I know the mere mention of forgiveness may repel you in disgust, but hear me out. I am not talking about a quick and easy forgiveness that cheapens the offense and the damage done to you. I am talking about a hard fought forgiveness that comes at the end of a long hard journey. I am talking about a forgiveness that is undeserved by the offender, but freeing to the offended. I am talking about a forgiveness that covers the offense and frees you from waiting for a restitution that may never come and will never be enough. When you finally apply the water of forgiveness to the evil that has ruled you for so long, you will finally be free from your witch. (I’ll write more about forgiveness in a future post.)

When you walk away from this final showdown, you will still carry mementoes of your experiences. Instead of a broom stick, there will be memories, triggers, and feelings from the past. But like the broom stick Dorothy carried back to the Emerald City, your mementoes will no longer have power over you.

At that point, you are ready for home.