I’m honestly tired of reading articles and reflections about this spread of a deadly virus. I’m even tired of writing them. But here we are, me writing another.
I think I’m tired of it because I’m tired of thinking about it. I’m tired of it taking up space in our hearts, robbing us of time with our loved ones (or robbing us of our loved ones themselves), making circumstances harder than they need to be. There is silver lining of displayed generosity and love, but it’s not enough to make this whole thing okay. It is very much not okay.
So why am I writing another article about this? Because this painful lesson is bringing me to a path of deeper peace.
I wanted to call this reflection “The Idolatry of Control.” I decided not to, though, because I would never read an article with that title. “Idolatry” is one of those polarizing words. The Israelites were idolaters when they favored the golden calf, Biblical foreign nations were idolaters when they worshiped the product of their hands. I struggle with sin, sure, and I have a loud mouth, okay, and I miss opportunities to be kind, yeah. But an idolater? Relax, legalist.
Outside of our emotionally-charge connotative definition, there is another. An idol is simply something we hold in more esteem, more affection, or more devotion than God Himself. We choose it over God. This can be intentional, but it doesn’t have to be. We sometimes leave off this part, though: an idol is also something that we trust more than God.
The Israelites trusted that golden calf more than the God who was leading them. But like…it was a golden calf. Literally just a pretty metal that was melted down and shaped into a barnyard animal. Like what? That doesn’t even make sense. At least they could’ve made Aaron or Moses their idol. That could actually make a bit of sense. But a golden calf?
I wanted to call this reflection “The Illusion of Control.” Because that’s what it is, isn’t it? We’ve never been able to control the future anymore than we can control the wind. We even require God’s Holy Spirit to be able to control ourselves (Galatians 5:22-23). But like the Israelites in Numbers 21, we give ourselves too much credit. We believe more depends on us than it does.
Illusionary idols are the worst kind. They’re the hardest to disprove because they’re not even real. It’s only when we are in desperate need that we see their futility.
Like right now. What do I base my feelings of safety upon? My peace? My satisfaction and contentment? Is it in being productive? Is it having a plan and seeing it through by hard work and determination? My plan for this entire year is already fractured. My feelings of safety — through making wise decisions, taking care of my body properly — are wavering. Healthy people get sick. What if none of my plans for even next year come to pass? What about my dream job? Us moving? Seeing my family again soon?
Moreover: did I ever have control over all these things?
No. It was the illusion of control that I held as an idol. I trusted Jesus, yeah, but to bring my plans to pass. I trusted Jesus, yeah, as my back-up plan because I had the main plan covered, thankyouverymuch.
Do I think Jesus hated me for any of these things? Of course not. His love is constant. Faithful. Unwavering and independent of circumstances. But I realize that in holding onto the illusion of control, I have forfeited so much peace that Jesus wants to give me. So much.
Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Alas, this still is not a one-prayer-now-I’m-healed kinda deal (well, maybe it will be for you, but it’s certainly a process for me). I’m only seeing more and more how I have placed my feelings of safety in the hands of enough information, stable plans, and financial guarantees. But all of these things can fail me. In fact, for the past two months or so, they have been. But Jesus’ promises of peace and courage were not attached to favorable conditions. They were only attached to and dependent on Himself.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33*
I cannot control the future. I cannot predict how long this will last (no matter how many predictions I binge read). I cannot determine the long-term effects on anyone or anything. But I am intimately loved and cared for by a God who is neither intimidated nor overwhelmed by my fears. He knows what’s going to happen. So I choose to purposefully and prayerfully trust Him instead of myself or any illusion of control.
I choose to remember that this world is wrapping up, maybe sooner or later than we expect, and He is my righteousness throughout it all.
I choose to serve where and how I can. I choose to do what I can.
I choose to forgive those who speak from a place of fear instead of faith. I choose to not subject myself to their mindset.
I choose to cry out to God for help in trusting Him as it becomes more natural.
I choose to trust. I choose to trust. Because He is still a trustworthy God.
*To read more of my absolute favorite verses of this kind, go here (the bottom of the article).