May 1, 2014

The Choke Hold On My Life, Part II: The Struggle For Control

So over the last few years I have witnessed what has amounted to a reordering of control in my life and it has been spiritual warfare between my own flesh and God. Until I began to give up control to God, I was fighting a losing battle. By fighting God I ended up fighting against my own flesh and also the powers and principalities of this world. By allowing God greater control in my life through the Holy Spirit, I was essentially letting Him wage war in my flesh and the spirits around me. By simply stopping the war of control with God I got a win-win situation. He took control over something I couldn’t control anyway and the battle is therefore already won on the eternal scale. I may still struggle day-to-day but the battle is tolerable at times now.

Furthermore, the dissatisfaction and disappointment over not having control then disappear or at least become minimized. These feelings were all reactions that flowed out from my unholy struggle with accepting what God has allowed to come into our lives. Again…a product of me not willing to relinquish control to God over all matter in my life…even suffering and chastisement.

This is the most powerful and important war in all of Creation. God is sovereign whether I believe in Him or not. He is sovereign whether I believe He is sovereign or not. God’s kingdom will come…like it or not. God’s will therefore rules. Since many will not obey God and will not always wish to do what I would like them to do…there will be a lack of control over my surroundings. The world does not belong to me, nor do I really belong in it (Philippians 3:20). I in my own person actually belong to another because I have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20). If I have actually died to self as a Christian should, I will give over control to God like a slave to His Master.

Because I was made by God for God in His image, I should find the greatest contentment and least need to control anything when in the center of His will. I should be quieted even if His will currently has me in the midst of suffering or disorientation at midlife. The truth is that the discontents that I feel and disappointments are in reality struggles or deeper disappointment with God since God knows what is best for me. Here again is the struggle for sovereignty over my life. The more I fight, the more profound and debilitating the struggle with God becomes.

If on the other hand I am allowing God control there will be less cynicism in my life. Why? Because if I believe God is indeed in the driver’s seat things will have to become more positive, not cynical. Why? Because God knows everything I don’t. He knows how to avoid future dilemmas that I should’ve never encountered had I actually stayed on course within His will. God orders everything and ordains everything and obedience in the Bible begets blessing, not curses (Deuteronomy 28). God knows all the mysteries of this life and the life to come. Why shouldn’t I trust Him and give control of my life over to Him? I rise each day from a darkness of sleep but God is ever vigilant for the well-being of His people. I should be able to bank my trust in a God like this.

I had grown impatient with many things in my life. I was a person with an extremely short fuse or no fuse at all. I was quickly irritated reacting poorly to even good gestures. It was clear not only to me but to others something deeper down was affecting my moods. No, my anger was coming from the fact that I was no longer able to control my life. The fa├žade had been pulled up and my new self-awareness made this truth hard to bear so I was lashing out. I should’ve been submitting control to God all along and now it was coming back to torment me with a vengeance.

So why did I find myself so angry all of a sudden? I found that anger expressed to others was actual anger that was direct at God but then redirected to people around me. The anger is really redirected anger from God to the most current person preventing me from getting what I think I need or want. I am really angry at God for not allowing things to go my way. Again, I find myself placing myself in the place of God. This anger of course is a symptom of a much deeper anger that was sucking the life out of my relationships and therefore my ministry.

I had begun to abandon godly habits in favor or embracing the world. I was giving up to pursue godless things. In my disappointment with God I had reached a point in my entire life where I was essentially thinking that if this is as good as it gets, what’s the point in even trying. I had cut back drastically on prayer time until it was virtually non-existent. I began cutting church attendance occasionally too. Everything I had done didn’t seem to matter….so I stopped. These action upon closer examination exposed a festering wound that need to be seen for what it was. Misguided motivation. I had done things for myself. I did things to improve my status. I did things to improve my position in life. If others benefited from my success (like wife and family) all the better. If God got glory because of what I was doing, great! But I was living for myself. My motivation was not to serve and help my family. I was not motivated to bring glory to God. I was doing things form myself and occasionally those things brought the center of attention in my life to God. The problem is that God was not at the center of my life.

The more the need for control is strangling off my heart, the more difficult my life will be. The more my own map of life is wrong…the more disappointment I will encounter. As failures of plans mount (which they will), self-worth will continue to diminish. This in turn will make me want to more adamantly control things leading to a faster the slide. Instead of seeing my fault in the failures, I then resort to blaming others. By blaming others I again attempt a small modicum of control and defer accountability of my own failure. It is in reality an evil illusion. All of this is a vicious dizzying death spiral like a plane going down. It just spins around in circles until it crashes and burns.

Compound my bad motives with a growing attachment to worldly things that was spawned because of a disenchantment with things that were spiritual…and life’s trajectory was aimed at destruction. I had exchanged God for things and ideas. I had made the creation the center of my focus, not the Creator. The system of my life wasn’t meant to work this way and now life was becoming dysfunctional. God and the world were competing for my attention and the world was winning. God therefore steps in and intervenes. I was no longer amazed by God’s glory because I wasn’t really seeing God for who He was. So the world which I could see every day was taking hold of me and affecting my motives and desires. God wasn’t giving me the pleasure and happiness I thought I deserved so I was trying to find it in the world. I was trying to find my identity in the world instead of Him. In trying to control others people including my wife I was not loving them I was loving me in a parasitic relationship. I was trying to find happiness where it would never be found…in other fallen people. I idealized other people and when they couldn’t live up to my expectations they had essentially failed me. I should’ve been looking to God the whole time. I became blind to God because of the immediate fallen human emotions and sensation I was currently feeling. Our feelings are subject to the fall and should never be trusted until matched against Scripture.

In truth I will never completely understand what God is doing. Knowing probably won’t help me much anyway because I wouldn’t want things to go the way God wants them to anyway. My mind is enmity against God even in its best condition. I will probably never be able to figure it all out. The desire to not control will only be found when I actually trust God. The fact I still battle with this condition exposes the wicked disposition of my heart. The fact is that when I continue to try and control, I don’t trust God. If I don’t trust God than I do not believe in the sovereign God I say I believe in, do I? If I complain that God should’ve taught me this lesson about control sooner or earlier in my life, then I am questioning God’s timing. Again, another issue of distrust. I am substituting the physical for the spiritual. Whether I succeed in life or fail is not dependent on whether or not I was in control (because I’m not). I really do need to be still and know God is God (Psalm 46:10). When God is God than I can rest in all the truths of His other attributes. This should bring the happiness that I believe I can only get through my control of my life. The failed control that makes me miserable.

I should see that my perceived struggles are actually signposts of God’s faithfulness, not His curse. I should be reassured that when these acts of grace are unfolding in my life it is God’s hand actively shaping my life through His control. For a long time I did not recognize what was happening to me was grace. I didn't recognize it because it didn't look like any type of grace I had seen before. It was painful grace. I was on the lookout for something else altogether. I wanted pleasant grace, God wanted difficult grace. I wanted it to end quickly. God wanted it to last for a while. So I didn't see it as grace. It was a grace of failure and mistakes not successes and smooth sailing. God took things rather than giving. His grace turned out to be a grace of discomfort and heartbreak. All I wanted was safety and predictability but instead I got risk and unpredictability. In place of strength he gave weakness and defeat. I just didn't like this grace.

I realized God was slowly delivering me from my own sins: anger, impatience, rage, ambition, etc (Galatians 5:19-21). The answer to my control issues was as simple as a proper active relationship with God through the Spirit. Through His unsettling and disquieting grace He was making that relationship happen because it was Him I needed to turn to in my discomfort to alleviate it. The truth is that this world and its fallen nature distracts me from the purpose of having this relationship with Jesus Christ at every turn. I must actively fight the urge to give into the world and cling to God. It is a daily war that will last indefinably in this life and will give no quarter. I must be ever vigilant and prepared to fight in this war by giving control to God. The same control that I push hard for everyday but it always manages to stay one step ahead of my grasp...and always will…because it’s not mine.

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