By Kate van der Hoeven
It’s human nature to want to be in control. We like to have our 5-year plans, our careers safely secured, our loved ones taken care of, and our health under control. It’s very good and even biblical to have a plan for what we are doing with our lives (1 Thes. 4:10b-12), make sure we are caring for our physical bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20), and of course we are to love and care for our families! (1 Tim. 5:8) But there’s a problem when these things become the driving force and purpose of our lives. What if my career suddenly fall apart? What if cancer enters the picture for me or a loved one? What if God chooses to take away someone I love very much? What happens if I’m not in as much control as I thought I was?
Idolization of earthly treasures and gifts like these can be hard to recognize. The devil is crafty in his ways of disguising this sin. He’s so crafty that we may not even realize we have this problem! However, if we take time to examine our hearts against the principles of Scripture or as we go to God in prayer, we’ll be able to distinguish the idols of our heart; the things we treasure above God.
“The devil is crafty in his ways of disguising this sin.”
There was a day when I found out my well-organized life wasn’t as safe as I made it out to be. I was watching fireworks with some members of my family when the fun changed to a nightmare. My sister was on her way to meet us when, as she turned into the driveway, an oncoming car slammed into her, flipping her car off the road. Miraculously, she walked out of the smashed remains with only minor injuries. As I watched the clean-up crew tow the wreckage away by the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, I saw my life from a new and scary viewpoint. In an instant, my world can change from safe and easygoing, to a horror story where I lose someone I love. I realized, as I dealt with the emotions of fear, relief, shock, and gratitude, that I had never prepared my heart for the possibility that God may take away something I treasure in order to sanctify me. I was not living fully surrendered to his plan, instead I was giving him conditions. I was left with an uncomfortable question: If he took away all the gifts and treasures he has given me, would I still be able to praise him and still choose to follow him?
“I had never prepared my heart for the possibility that God may take away something I treasure in order to sanctify me.”
The days and weeks following my sister’s accident were hard for me. Though she had made it out of the accident alive and well, I kept wondering what I would have done had the story ended differently. It was a difficult process but God used it to jolt me out of a wrong view of my life. He allowed me to see that I have very little control over what happens. Tragedy is going to come, suffering is inevitable, and what I do with that knowledge is extremely important and will shape how I live in both the good times and the bad.
For some of you the tragedy I speak of has already come. Your story is different than mine and your suffering is very real. You are now dealing with the hard questions and the unknown reasons for your suffering. You may never get the answer to your “why” and some measure of sorrow will always stay with you. Though I don’t personally know your full story and the full depth of your pain, I still believe that turning to the truths of Scripture, clinging to the One all Scripture points to, and really believing all the promises written in the Bible is what you and I most need.
The truths of Scripture and the promises of God are always relevant, especially in times of suffering! You have tasted the pain and lack of control that this fallen world brings. But if you believe in God and His promises, you have a hope that no unbeliever has: Your suffering has meaning and no tear goes unnoticed by our Heavenly Father (Ps. 56:8-13). Hold onto that hope in your suffering.
“if you believe in God and His promises, you have a hope that no unbeliever has”
We have two options when it comes to suffering: The first is rejecting God’s sovereignty and try to plan our own lives. The result of that choice is the constant fear of trying to control the uncontrollable. The second option is surrendering all that God has given us, all circumstances he puts us through, and all of life’s gifts and tragedies, to Him.
The first option is what most of us fall into. When life is easy, we think we have a level of control over our circumstances. But what happens when suffering and trials come? Suddenly life’s not going according to plan and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. We were doing things right after all, weren’t we? There is no meaning to the pain, there is no purpose in the confusion, and we’re left with one big “WHY GOD?”
It’s a lot like walking in an area with black ice. We don’t see it coming until our feet slip out from under us, the ground comes up to meet us, and we lose control. Suffering is like that. We feel we have perfect control over our lives until suddenly our circumstances slip out from under us and we are powerless. Like slipping on ice, it’s scary and it hurts!
The second option, however, takes our lives out of our hands and places them into the only Hands that fully control every circumstance. If we believe what the Bible says, then we can know that God truly wants what’s best for us and we can trust Him with what we’ve got; regardless of what He decides to do with it.
“If we believe what the Bible says, then we can know that God truly wants what’s best for us and we can trust Him with what we’ve got; regardless of what He decides to do with it.”
Though it’s hard to let go of what we think is best, it is infinitely better to know that the God of the Universe will do what is ultimately best for us! Suffering, when it comes, will take on meaning because it has been allowed by God for our good. We can trust Him even in pain because He does it out of love and for our continued sanctification (2 Cor. 4:16-18). We could not face what is ahead without His loving, guiding hand. There is so much comfort in surrendering all to Jesus, knowing that He is using every single piece in our lives to grow us closer to Him and make our testimony to others stronger.
If you have yet to surrender all things in your life to God’s control, I encourage you to consider where you will find your hope when suffering comes. Had my sister not survived that crash, I could have gone to a very dark place of unbelief because I was not prepared to trust God, His love for me, and His plan for me on that level.
Now is the best time for us to decide who we believe to be in control, before suffering clouds all our thoughts and emotions. My experience helped me realize how little control I have, and how much control He has. This surrender frees me from worry and frees me to joyfully serve in any circumstances because I know he holds my future.
“Now is the best time for us to decide who we believe to be in control”
Christ is worthy of entrusting Him with your life. To quote Naomi Vacaro, (founder of Wholehearted):
“So why should we surrender? The case is made through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He lived a life of faithful surrender and obedience to the Father. He entered into our suffering, our punishment, and submitted Himself to death on a cross. This is how we know we can trust His intention for us! For if he didn’t love us, He would not have died for us. And finally, the resurrection proves that God has the power to redeem, heal, and raise from the dead. It would be foolish to trust in a God who had no power! Do you trust that God raised Jesus from the dead? He also has the power to redeem your suffering. So surrender to Him. Let Him have His way.”
Let me affirm again that you can trust God with your life. He may take you where you did not expect to go, He may place you in a burning furnace to remove the impurities that keep you from holiness, and He may let you pass through deep, deep waters. But through it all we can surrender and cling to the promises we find as we read His word.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.
I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
– Isaiah 41:18-20 – Isaiah 41:10-11
Kate is kid number 7 of 10 in her family, and her life has never had a dull moment! Growing up in a homeschooling, Christian home in Kentucky, Kate was raised to love God and His Word. She currently works at a local orchard, and fills her time with reading, archery, and piano playing. It is her firm belief that we never stop growing to be more like Jesus as we actively pursue Him.