In life, so many things seem out of our control because, well, they are. Every so often, our circumstances are the direct result of our choices, but most frequently, things just “seem to happen.” In other words, we rarely (if ever) mold or shape the environment in which we live and operate. When this truth plays out in our experience(s), we grow frustrated because our futile attempts fail to produce the sense of control we so greatly desire. And this frustration over our lack of control further heightens the sense of things being out of our control because, well, they are.

Nevertheless, a person’s innate desire for control is not in and of itself sinful. In fact, it is right and good, part of whom God made us to be. The problem is not that we desire some amount of control in our circumstances. The problem is what we desire to control in our circumstances. To put it another way, our desire for control is sinfully misdirected.

How many times has someone told you, “Control what you can control”? Ultimately, what is that person saying? “You can’t control what [another person] thinks, says, or does; but you can control what you think, say, and do.” The reason we do not like to hear someone say, “Control what you can control,” is because we do not like to be reminded of the one thing we should be controlling – ourselves!

No matter the circumstances, we have two options. On the one hand, we can use our desire for control rightly and “control what we can control” (i.e., ourselves), which is good and righteous (cf. Gal. 6:22-23). On the other hand, we can exert our desire for control sinfully and seek to control (i.e. manipulate) the circumstances and people around us. Either way, we must choose to control something/someone. Why?

Consider God’s command to Adam and Eve before the Fall…

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. ~ Gen. 1:28-31 (my emphasis added)

What, in essence, was God’s command? It was to exert control / have dominion over creation – and it was very good! God created men and women to desire and to exert a certain degree of control in this world! However, this desire to control things was only “very good” / righteous so long as man first exerted self-control by obeying God’s command not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Fall changed things. The “very good” / righteous desire for control God created in Adam and Eve was not lost, but it was distorted and perverted. Rather than being content with the (limited degree of) control God had given them, they sought to “be like God” and to control everything. And in so doing, they likewise distorted and perverted their (limited degree of) control over creation. What once would have been fruitful, multiplied, and caused creation to flourish (including other people) would now propagate pain, thorns and thistles, arduous toil, relational conflict, and even dissolution of life (cf. Gen. 3:16-19). All this changed because our first parents refused to show the self-control God required of them.

What did Adam and Eve do after the Fall? They hid themselves because of the shame of their sin, manipulating their appearances and environment in a futile attempt to cover their sinful lack of self-control. They blamed others. They sought to control (or manipulate) everything “out there,” all the while knowing the true problem was loss of control “in here.” Sin had wholly corrupted their hearts, minds, and souls. For the first time, everything seemed out of control – and understandably so!

Brothers and Sisters, we forget that Adam and Eve were real people, no different than us. None of us can (fully) understand what they lost in the Fall. None of us can (fully) comprehend how their entire worldview was overturned in a matter of seconds. More keenly than any of us, they felt the sting of a world spiraling out of control. All seemed lost, and they knew there was nothing they could do to change any of it.

But there is One who felt that sting even more keenly than Adam and Eve, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is impossible to imagine how the Sinless Savior could bear living in a world that was sinfully spiraling out of control. It is even more impossible to imagine him having the power to fix everything with the snap of a finger, yet not doing so. Jesus could have set right all the wrongs of this world with just one word, yet he chose not to do so. Why? Because that was not his Father’s will.

The self-control Jesus exerted in his humanity is a crucial component of what is called his active righteousness. The God-Man was not commanded to “fix things.” He was commanded to “control what he could control” by fulfilling every aspect of his Father’s law and will. He did the very thing Adam and Eve had failed to do and the very thing none of us can do. He perfectly and sinlessly trusted and obeyed God, despite living and operating in an environment that was sinfully out of control.

God’s plan was not, and is not, to fix everything immediately. In his own eternal counsel, he chose to set the grand story of redemption in the midst of a chaotic, dark, “out of control” world and to change things incrementally in his timing. Why are we surprised by this?

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. ~ Gen. 1:2

God does not change so why would his (re-)creative activity change? If we know the setting for the first creation, why do we find it so difficult to believe that the second (re-)creation is unfolding in the midst of a chaotic, dark, “out of control” world as God changes things incrementally, in his timing, and by His Spirit?

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways. He has chosen to gain victory through loss, obedience through suffering, and life through death. When we start to grasp such things, we are not only regaining what was lost in the Fall, but gaining glimpses into the very mind of God. So rather than being preoccupied with fixing things “out there,” let us trust God’s way of doing things so we might find true joy, hope, and security in this world. And as we learn that type of self-control “in here,” the Holy Spirit “fixes” us, continually re-creating us into the image of God our Savior! Has this not been God’s revealed will all along?

Please remember all these things the next time your world feels like it is out of control. The reason it feels that way is because, from your limited perspective, it is! But even amid such chaos, God is showing you the madness of this present, evil age so you might fix your eyes on eternity in his presence. He is showing you that he is the Sovereign One, not you. And, by his Holy Spirit speaking through his word, he is reminding you, “Control what you can control.”

Trust him, he has everything under control.

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