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Why Lack of Control Is a Gift from God

Why Lack of Control Is a Gift from God

Reach Out and Find Him

The apostle Paul gave us some assuring words to cling to when we feel like things are out of control. He spoke them when he was on Mars Hill, a place where philosophers and people would gather to ask deep questions. “What is the meaning of life?” someone might ask, or “Why is there evil in the world?” Each of those questions has an underlying root: an awareness of our inability to control everything we want to.

In Acts 17:24 Paul echoed what the prophet Nehemiah said. God made the world and everything in it, and he didn’t need any help! Then, Paul went on to make a life-changing, perspective-shifting statement:

From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. — Acts 17:26

Okay, so sometimes I am guilty of reading the Bible way too fast. I want us to slow down and really take in what Paul was saying here.

  1. “From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth.”
    Who created the first humans? God did, and we know from Genesis 1:26 that He created them in His likeness and image. Here Paul explained more, saying that all of humankind, including every nationality and culture, finds its origin in God, and they live over all the earth because of God.
  2. “[God] has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live.”
    We could be tempted to think that God created everything, then stepped back and left it to run its course. Paul refuted that idea, giving two aspects of God being in control. First, He determined our “appointed times” and, second, even the “boundaries” of our existence are determined by God.

Why is this so crucial in helping our fear of losing control? Because it reminds us that there is not an ounce of our human life that is random or by chance. Think of it this way: you and I could have lived in any point of human history, yet we live now. There is a purpose to why we live in this specific moment in history. We could be located in any geographical location, yet we live in the country, state, city, neighborhood, street we do for a reason! It’s not random. It’s not out of control. It is ordered and has a purpose.

So what’s that purpose? Paul said,

He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. — Acts 17:27

If we take a closer look at the original language Paul used here, we’ll see He actually acknowledged our loss of control. The phrase “they might reach out” translates the Greek verb pslaphseian, which can also mean “to look for something in uncertain fashion, to feel around for.”1 The word is used elsewhere in the Bible as well as in ancient Greek literature to describe a person who is either blind or stuck in darkness and trying to find or “feel” their way out of their dark and desperate situation — a situation in which they are painfully aware of their need and their lack of control.2

Paul said that while we are in this situation, searching for escape, for some kind of guiding help, God is near to us. And as we reach out and seek Him, we will find Him and realize that He has actually never been far.

So, the situation we’re in is not good. Things are looking dire, and panic is settling in. But if we’ll stop and look up, we’ll find the security and peace of our God who assures us that we’ve never been alone. He’s been there the whole time, and He will continue to be with us.

  • It’s a humbling experience to be lost. But that newfound humility paves the way for immense gratitude and joy once we’re found.

What if our lack of control — even when it leads to anxious nighttime thoughts, moments of panic, and desperate attempts to gain control — is actually a gracious gift of God? What if it sets us up to realize that the very belief that we can control things is really an illusion? As soon as we can identify it as an illusion, we are positioned in a posture of humility and recognize the one who is truly in control of all things. Then, we are straight shook when we look to our side and realize he’s been with us the whole time.

In Hebrews 11 we read,

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. v. 3

God, in His might, did the unimaginable, creating the entire world we live in today. He is the one behind the strength and beauty we see all around us. He is also the one at work in every detail of our lives. And it’s by faith that we understand all this.

  • So when we confront the reality of our lack of control, it’s an opportunity. We can exchange our desire for control for the gift of humble faith.

We can stop spinning our wheels. Stop wearing ourselves out with fruitless efforts and ratcheting up our inner tension. We can begin to experience a deep, settled peace in our souls by accepting the reality of our lack of control and embracing Jesus, who has perfect control.

As you lay awake at night, sleepless and restless, consider speaking some simple truths over yourself as a prayer.

Jesus, You are with me. Jesus, I can’t, but You can.

Jesus, You are my peace that brings calm.

Now, let’s take a breath. Think of His awesome power. And let ourselves just accept reality, that so much of life is not in our hands. And that’s okay; it’s in His.

  1. David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans, 2009), 498.
  2. Ben Witherington refers to the usage in nonbiblical Greek literature
    such as Aristophanes, 315; Pax 691; Plato, Phaedo 99b. See Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1998), 528. Additionally, the word is used in the Septuagint in reference to blindness and darkness. See Isaiah 59:10; Judges 16:26; Deuteronomy 28:29; Job 5:13–14; Job 12:25.

Excerpted with permission from The Hidden Peace by Joel Muddamalle, copyright Joel Muddamalle.

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Your Turn

Most of us would probably acknowledge our control issues. We want to solve our own problems and be able to control our circumstances but we can’t because we’re not in control; God is. What would change for you if you stopped spinning your wheels? What if you embraced the gift of faith in Him instead? ~ Devotionals Daily