Recently, I’ve talked with several people who have dealt with anxiety or control issues. As we are talking about the need to let go of control and to trust God, they will say something to this affect:
“I guess I need to trust God that my friend will forgive me.”
“I need to trust God that my mother won’t have cancer.”
“I need to trust God that my kids will be safe.”
“I’m trusting God to meet all my (perceived) needs.”
“I need to trust God that everything will be o.k.”
The problem is that this is “trusting” God with an expectation that He will do what we think is best. This is trusting for the outcome. And, if God doesn’t do what we think is best, then we are tempted to think He doesn’t love us…or He’s useless to us…or He can’t be all that powerful. It can also be an issue of trying to manipulate God. It can lead to, “If God doesn’t do what I want, then I’ll be mad and give Him the cold shoulder. I’ll go into depression and leave the church because He can’t be ‘trusted’.”
It can also lead to anger because we think “I’ve done my part of the bargain of trusting and God hasn’t kept His part of giving me what I trusted Him for.” This is still an issue of trying to be in control.
Powerless and Fearful
If we leave it at “I need to trust God” without an expected outcome, it can leave us feeling powerless and fearful. Much of what I do in counseling is to help people separate my part, their part, and God’s part. It’s tempting when dealing with anxiety or control issues, to try to do God and other people’s parts. When we come to recognize that I am responsible to do my part and not to do other parts, we retain the right kind of power.
Focusing on ‘my part’ leads to peace. My part is to make amends and ask for forgiveness, even though I can’t expect forgiveness. My part is to take care of myself by eating right and taking care of my body, and I still may get cancer. My part is to take precautions in protecting my children, and I still may miss a danger sign. My part is working and spending money faithfully, but may end up with medical bills. My part is to make decisions for myself and let other’s make their decisions.
The fear comes because if we can’t control a particular outcome, then we believe we just have to let all the bad stuff happen. But just because we can’t control an outcome, doesn’t mean we don’t have a part to play.
Trusting When Bad Things Happen
Here’s the truth: bad things happen. Rejection happens. Catastrophe’s happen. Death happens. And when bad things happen, it doesn’t mean God isn’t powerful…or He is useless…or He’s mad…or doesn’t love us. It doesn’t mean we have to like it or we can’t grieve. It also doesn’t give us the right to control others.
When bad things happen, scripture says He is with us. Scripture says that when we trust Him with the bad, He will turn it for good (Rom. 8:28). If we trust in everything being o.k., it will lead to a life of disillusionment or a life of control to make sure it will be o.k. To ‘trust’ means we let go of God’s part and other people’s part and accept the responsibility of our part (Gal. 6:7-10). We receive both the good and the bad (Job 2:10). We let go of control, by receiving from the hand of the Father, His presence with us (Ps. 23:4).