The Illusion of Control

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”

-Psalm 37:7a

I’ve always been a careful planner. I love to organize, make lists, and create plans. Although these can be helpful qualities, I think that control is often a coping mechanism for anxiety. There are so many unpredictable things in life and I feel safest when I control what I can.

However, the last few weeks have been a sobering reminder of just how out of control we actually are. I don’t know about you, but lately it’s felt like my soul just can’t keep up with all that’s happening— constant news updates about the coronavirus, concern for the safety of dear family and friends, immense economic distress for so many, and figuring out how to operate in an increasingly online world.

Honestly, one of my strongest emotions lately has been that of powerlessness. I want so badly to help, but am not sure how. The other day I found myself googling “ways to help during COVID 19”. I felt frustrated realizing how easily I could accidentally infect the very people I want to help.

However, in these very moments of powerlessness I’ve clearly sensed God’s presence and strength.

During this chaotic season in the world, I think that God is inviting all of us into deeper trust in Him, even when we don’t understand what is happening.

He is reminding us that He is God and we are not. He is allowing us to more fully recognize our dependence on Him. And He is asking us to surrender the illusion that we are in control of our lives.

Honestly, releasing control is such a struggle for me. I’m so in process with this one. However, I want to share some simple tools that have been helpful to me lately.

Pausing: Recently I discovered a free app called the “One Minute Pause”. You can find it here:

This simple app is a reminder to stop throughout the day and recenter on God. It’s an invitation to release to Him the people and situations that are out of our control and experience His presence. In his book Get Your Life Back, John Eldredge (the author of this book and the creator of the app) explains the importance of stopping and releasing control.

You’ve got to release the world; you’ve got to release people, crises, trauma, intrigue, all of it. There has to be some time in your day where you just let it all go… your soul is finite. You cannot carry the sorrow of the world, only God can do that. Only He is infinite. Somewhere, sometime in your day, you’ve got to just release it. You’ve got to let it go.”

John Eldredge, Get Your Life Back

This practice has been so powerful for me, especially during the past few weeks. It only takes a minute and each time my soul feels lighter and I’m reminded of the bigness of God to handle the things I’m unable to handle alone. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Listening: Lately I’ve recognized my tendency to tell God what needs to happen. I see so many needs and challenges in the world and in my own life. I regularly approach God with my own agenda of what I think He needs to do.

However, God has been reminding me that He is at work in the world right now.

Now I want to be clear that I don’t think God made this virus happen. We live in a fallen world where things are not as they should be. However, God loves to redeem the things that the enemy meant for evil. He brings beautiful things out of the most chaotic and messy situations. And He invites us to join Him in His work in the world.

Recently I read a prayer that really stood out to me:

“May I have vision and courage to join God in the places He’s already working rather than feel responsible for bringing Him with me.”

-Justin McRoberts & Scott Erickson, Prayer: Forty Days of Practice

God is at work in the world. And He invites us to follow Him even when we can’t see the full picture of what He’s doing.

Doing what we can: Although we as humans are very out of control, there are a few simple things that we can control. We can choose to start the day with Jesus and His truth. We can limit the voice of news and social media instead of focusing on it 24-7. We can prioritize people and connection in the midst of social distancing. We can obey God’s simple invitations to love and support each other.

And most importantly, we can trust in a God who is bigger than any chaos or evil in the world.

We can release the illusion of control.

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