It is easy to feel like we are in control, especially when our lives seem to be going just as planned.
Some of us believe that we are so powerful that we can control our own fate and the fate of others, but we only have power because it was given to us from above (John 19:11). Some of us consider ourselves opportunists who will jump at every change and adapt it to suit ourselves, while some just “go with the flow” and let change carry us.
Despite the differences in these lifestyles, they have a common factor. It is our will rather than God’s which is being practiced, and we are trying to control our lives. We feel like we are in control because we are acting in rebellion to God and taking advantage of all the areas in our lives where he grants us control. In the end God is still the one in charge, so if we truly want to be happy, we need to let God be in control even when we have the option to turn away from him.
As I begin my first year of seminary, I am experiencing numerous changes in my life and sometimes I find it difficult. Ever since I was a young child, I have preferred routines and schedules, but any changes to my routine really disturbs me. Now my whole life has changed. I have been telling myself, “I’ll be OK once I settle into my new routine and get comfortable,” but truly I want to be OK now in the midst of the change.
When we feel this way, it is easy to give into sins such as gluttony, lust, anger or sloth which we use to try to control how we feel, but they really just make us feel worse. How should we really cope with change? I don’t think coping is the answer.
Jesus himself experienced change constantly in his life, and he acknowledged it saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Although change keeps several people from following Jesus, Jesus never seems very concerned with change. This is because he had one unchanging thing which he held onto: his mission to save us.
He had something to keep himself focused, and he never wavered. At the same time, Jesus gave us our own mission to hold onto. Our mission is eternal life, and the way there is through following Jesus in everything, in every time and in every situation. It is just that simple.
Simple does not necessarily mean easy. It’s all very nice to let Jesus take the wheel when what he is asking us to do is easy and fits into our own plan, but it is totally different when he asks us to do something difficult. Some of the most difficult times are when the world around us is changing, and we don’t know what to expect from tomorrow.
Jesus gives us the answer to this saying, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day” (Matthew 6:34).
In the movie, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” Frodo asks Sam as all hope seems lost in their quest, “What are we holding on to, Sam?” Sam answers, “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” When everything around us is in upheaval, we have to know that Jesus is our constant, and he is always with us in our fight.
So, how do we give Jesus control in our lives? The simple answer is that it requires much practice. Life can be described as a tug of war between Jesus and ourselves. It can take a whole lifetime to fully realize that it would be a lot easier to just let him win in the first place. Let’s stop pretending that we can direct our own lives without ending up in a wreck. Let’s stop floating wherever the wind blows and trying to cope with change by giving into sin. Let’s give up control of our lives and allow Jesus to drive us home.
Sam Stengel is a seminarian at the House of Formation, taking philosophy classes through the University of Arkansas Little Rock and Newman University in Wichita, Kan. His home parish is St. Joseph Church in Paris.
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