Only Trust (An unashamedly Christian kind of post…)

Control is a mirage: a tantalising illusion that tricks so many of us into a punishing, striving and worrisome kind of life.

To be in control is perhaps the most dominant goal of many of our workdays, home lives and relationships. It doesn’t sound particularly warm or gracious or exciting, yet we still – often subconsciously – believe that to be in control is the best way. We like our lives to be comfortable, protected, predictable. The prospect of being out of control terrifies us. We really do struggle with the what-ifs and unknowns, with dependence and waiting.

Yet, generally speaking, any illusion we have that we are in control is just that: an illusion. No matter how much we plan, work or manipulate, there will always be unknowns and unreliables, changes and challenges.

‘Life is movement’ writes Danielle Strickland*, and she’s right. Any vibrant, growing, relational life will be full of change and movement, and that is a sign of health. No man is an island, and wherever there are people there will be a degree of unpredictability. As a primary school teacher, I know first-hand the deceptive charm of ‘control’ and the anxiousness that goes with a lack of it! Nevertheless, I’m learning that life becomes altogether more peaceful when we acknowledge that control really isn’t everything. In fact, a life of inter-dependence, trust and flexibility is far richer than one fraught with what will always be a futile endeavour for control.

Faith, of course, makes all of this somewhat easier. As Danielle Strickland points out, when God asked Abraham to leave his home and live nomadically for decades, to wait in barrenness for descendants and to do all kinds of strange and risky things, it must have felt more than a little vulnerable, chaotic, illogical and, humanly, out of control. Abraham, fortunately, had faith – a trust that God was good and knew what He was doing in spite of appearances. Before him, Noah too, showed that it is possible to find hope and peace in the midst of chaos when he built his ark in a tumultuous time of violence and waywardness. He had faith as he boarded it and rode out the floods and trusted that good would come out of his strange, surely unexpected situation.

For me, knowing and trusting that God is bigger than my abilities is reassuring. I don’t need to ‘hold it all together’ (control) because He is the One who holds all things together.** Knowing that, many times, he has brought beauty and goodness out of chaos (see Danielle Strickland’s book*) means much to me. When worries and anxiety (and, sometimes, sheer panic!) threaten to overpower me, prayer brings me peace again. Yes, situations may be out of my control – but they are not out of His. Yes, I’ve no idea what to do with my situations, emotions and insecurities, but He has many ideas, all beautiful and creative and powerful. My life looks better when I relinquish my grip on things.

One of my favourite quotes is by CS Lewis, describing the lion Aslan, a metaphor for God: ‘He is not tame but he is good.’ I love it because of course our God is wild and free and powerful and mysterious – who would want a God who was not those things? I love it too because we are made in his image and who of us would wish to be reigned or contained? Our truest, deepest selves want more than control or dominion. We desire adventure, grace, extravagance and love, none of which can be tamed, all of which are parts of the essence of our untame, good God.

Anxiety seeks to control me. It grips me into a habit of striving for control – but prayer and the Bible are my doors back to peace and grace, freedom and love. I don’t need to earn these things through managing my life better. I have already been given them all by a loving creator God.

Mother Teresa once said ‘I have never had clarity, only trust’. This quote inspired Kendall Payne’s beautiful song, Pray. Her lyrics are challenging but they meet my soul at its most essential and hopeful. ‘May your heart break enough that compassion enters in…’ Yes, I’d rather have a broken heart than a hard and unyielding one. When I get past the desire to control what might hurt me I find a softness, an empathy, a tenderness. Being vulnerable feels tough but it is so much better than living breathless and panicky, grabbing at control at the expense of truly living.

It’s a strange and liberating truth that God can bring all kinds of good out of darkness, chaos and emptiness, as Gungor sing about, here, in their song Beautiful Things. As in the story of creation, God can speak into my darkness, grow a garden in empty space, make beauty and life out of dust, unleash His fierce, abundant love and grace in all of us, if only we’ll give away our quest for control.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
Oceans, by Hillsong United

*Danielle Strickland references are all from her book, ‘A Beautiful Mess’.

**Colossians 1:17

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