February 13, 2021 | By Jay Ashbaucher
To answer this question, you have lots of options. Do your emotions control you? You have your pick of many—love, fear, hate, greed, jealousy, envy, lust, anger—choose your master and have fun trying to control the ups and downs of emotions and any hurtful consequences you do not like. Do your inner urges and drives control you? There are also many drives to get what we want that can control us—pleasing people so I am liked, power, money, your top five bucket list, pleasures, achieving goals, sex drives, ideals like good behavior, religious duties, good health, loving relationships, education, work skills – what wants to drive your life? Does fatalism control your life? This is a belief that what will be will be, fate, chance, or destiny is in control and I have no choice but to go with what is determined for me. Are you happily accepting whatever happens? Does spirituality control you? Spirituality can include things like demonic powers, witchcraft, religions and gods, stars and horoscopes, nature’s energy forces, and mystical people with ESP to guide you. Are you in control of your own life? This is what American culture strongly advises, “Take control of your life!” This is the default position most people take. We humans must take responsibility to control our own lives – our feelings, our urges, our will, our choices, and our destiny. The popular thing today is to be your own god, create your own truth, get in touch with the power within you to make your life the way you want it to be. You have just had a sampling of options to help you think about the above question, Who or what controls you?
You might be thinking, “Who cares? What does it matter? Just find what works for you, what it is that makes you happy, and go with it. Sounds simple. But obviously, not many people have found an answer that is working for them, for there are tons of unhappy people running around wishing their lives were better. What shape is our world in? Seems like a lot of wars going on, lots of unhappy relationships and broken families, lots of poverty and evils like human trafficking, lots of addictions destroying people’s lives, lots of lies and mistrust, lots of divisiveness causing harmful conflicts, lots of stressful fears of catching diseases, of being unsafe on the streets, of dying, etc. I’m truly glad for you if you are happy with few worries, but many folks are still looking for a controlling power that gives them safety, peace, love, goodness, and freedom from evils lurking in the dark places of the world and in the shadows of our souls.
For what It’s worth, and to give you another option to think about, allow me to share my answer to the question, what controls you? With the help of others, I learned of a God who created us and who has given us directions on how life works best in a world that is both good and evil. What controls my life is two things, myself and divine help. God has made us to be change agents with the power of choice to control what happens in our lives, but not without his power working within us and around us. God has a plan to fix our lives and the world, and he wants to bring us along to help him do it and to also receive a guaranteed good future as a result of faith in him. Simply put, I am in control of what God says is my part, and he is in control of what he says is his part. But not so simple is understanding how we and God simultaneously work together so that complete control, resulting in an unshakable life, is possible.
This dual control of one’s life is something my wife and I were reminded of due to a near accident on an Interstate highway. It was about 9 pm when we headed down the ramp onto the 3 and sometimes 4 lane Interstate. Suddenly the back of the car started to slide sideways and I knew we were in trouble. Without using the brake or changing the gear, I tried steering to straighten the car and regain control. Clearly, we hit a patch of black ice. I steered this way, and then that way, while the car was sliding in all directions across the three lanes, sideways, then spinning in a complete 360 circle, then facing the right direction again, then heading for a concrete wall separating the two sides of the Interstate. I heard my wife say, “Stop steering.” I kept my hands on the steering wheel but stopped steering. The car came to a stop facing the concrete wall, sideways across the lane. Then, the car started slowly backing up across the three lanes heading toward the shoulder. I looked back, trying to see if we were going to hit something, go into a ditch, or what. When the car got to the shoulder it stopped and turned, perfectly facing the direction we were originally headed. We just sat there, thanking God that we were safe. I noticed headlights behind me. A pickup was pulling up beside us on the passenger side away from traffic. I rolled down the window. He said, “Apart from being scared witless, are you okay, were you hit?” We said we did not hit anything, nor did anyone hit us, and we were okay. He said he saw what was happening to us, but that he lost sight of us because of traffic in front of him. I assured him again that we were okay and that we were thankful to God that nothing bad happened. He drove off, and when I decided to continue down the Interstate, I discovered that the car had turned off and I needed to restart it to continue on home. There were many things about this mishap that I did not understand. I never saw a car in front of me, and when we were backward facing the traffic, I never saw a vehicle behind me. My wife thought we were going to hit the concrete wall when the car stopped sideways across the lane, facing the wall. The car backed up, which it could not have done if the car was still in drive, but unknown to me, the engine had turned off. What force made the car back up, why did it stop perfectly on the shoulder of the Interstate, and what made it turn when we got to the shoulder, facing in the direction we needed to go?
I cannot think of any natural explanation. When I stopped steering, something else took over. My faith tells me that God took control, either by the power of his Spirit or by sending an angel to move our car safely off the highway. The thing I realized again was this: when I quit trying to control what is happening to me, it allows God to control the things I cannot. This event is an illustration of what controls me, and how it works. Working in harmony together with God is what controls my life. Many would classify Christianity as a religion, equal to all the other religions. But there is one huge difference. Religion is us trying to earn God’s approval, acceptance, and favor. Christianity is knowing that we cannot earn anything from God, but he loves us and gives his Son to save us. A true Christian relationship with God is not performing do’s and don’ts to be accepted and rewarded with his blessings and a future heavenly existence. A Christian’s relationship with God is based on faith in his words of guidance found in the Bible, the hope of what he promises us, and a mutual love for one another that allows us the freedom to become all he created us to be, and that allows him the freedom to provide all that we cannot provide for ourselves. God sets us free from the things that enslave us and try to control us, and releases us into the freedom to grow and mature and enjoy the good and right things of life, things he gives us through faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these being love. We control the things that we are responsible to control, but we cannot control God. We can only surrender to him, knowing and believing that even when bad things happen, they cannot destroy his good for us, rather, in some way, he will cause all things to turn out for our good (Romans 8:28-39).