Today’s post is a followup from Sunday, October 21st’s sermon. If you missed it, you can listen to it by clicking here.
I JUST WANT SOME PEACE AND QUIET
Peace. Also known as stillness, calm, perspective, not freaking out.
If I could fail-proof reproduce peace/stillness/calm/perspective/not-freaking-out, bottle them, and sell them, I would be the richest man this world will ever know. The human heart screams for peace.
PEACE = CONTROL. BUT… WHO’S IN CONTROL? AND PEACE AT WHAT COST?
Humans understand, whether intuitively or consciously, that peace is a by-product of control. If people behave (spouses, children, friends, bosses, coworkers, and not to forget pets!), if the market performs as expected, if the Bank of Canada interest rate doesn’t rise (again!), if drivers follow the rules of the road, if the house is clean, if things are under control, then we experience peace.
The truth is control goes one of two ways, one for the better and one for the worse.
For the worse, we attempt over-control. We wrestle people, situations, the work environment (home, contruction site, office, school, etc.), or whatever it is you’re trying to control, to the point of exercising oppressive authority and anger. We are determined to will peace into reality. But at what cost? Typically this kind of “peace” is at the cost of relationships and peace in your body. Our bodies and souls are intimately integrated. Over-control will show up as high blood pressure, anxiety, ulcers, migrains, neck pains, and on and on.
One article from Psychology Today identifies these unhealthy signs of over-control.
- Excessively correcting people when they’re wrong.
- Excessively trying to win the argument and having the last word.
- Refusal to admit when they’re wrong.
- Easily judging or criticizing others.
- Frequently needing to express anger or rage, whether under your breath or for everyone to see and hear. Do you excessively curse, be it outloud or under your breath? Do you have a nervous or anxiety-caused tic like biting your nails? Do you road rage?
For the better, we achieve control and peace harmoniously. We discover strategies to work together with others toward peace in our respective contexts. For example, at home, the family patiently works as a team to gently but clearly articulate mutual desires and expectations. Along the way, each member extends grace as the other stumbles toward learning the family habits. At the office, coworkers professionally and respectfully communicate goals and expectations. When everyone works together as a team with a common goal for mutual flourishing, then the net gain is peace.
Notice an all-important difference between control for the better and for the worse. The good kind of control has a vision, values, and goals greater than any one individual. At play is something beautifully larger than one individual’s control. On the other hand, unhealthy over-control typically comes down to one individual’s arm-twisting agenda.
THE BEST ALTERNATIVE: GOD IS GOOD AND IN CONTROL
If as humans we indeed need good control, then the Christian gospel holds out the greatest hope. If what we require is a vision, values, and goals greater and more beautiful than our invidual agendas, then Jesus and his gospel is the answer. Why? Beacuse Jesus’ gospel says:
God created a good and orderly world.
Sin infected our lives with chaos and disorder beyond our control.
Jesus has come to restore peace by bringing under control the source of our chaos–sin.
I’m invited to flourish under Jesus’ good control of my life and history.
Let’s not completely villify control. Healthy control that helps us flourish as human beings is good. The real question is “Who is in ultimate control?” The life-giving answer is “God is good and in control. Therefore, I trust my Father in heaven for the big picture. And I earnestly work and rest in Christ day to day.”
One of my favourite go-to prayers when I’m overwhelmed and losing a sense of control is David’s prayer in Psalm 37. The entire psalm is beautiful. I offer you verses 1-9 with applications here.
1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
Honestly look in the mirror and admit that you are seeking unhealthy over-control.
David was calling out himself and other saints on “fretting.” “Fret” here means to be anxiously angry. “Be not envious of wrongdoers” also speaks to a mix of anxiety and anger–an anger from desiring control because things are out of control. Be honest with God and yourself: do you display any of the unhealthy signs of over-control listed above?
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Hand over your blood-pressure raising, anxiety-causing, depression-brewing need to over-control to God’s good control.
I find that people eventually relinquish control when they trust the one they are handing over the control to. Trust comes when we believe that the one they are relinquishing control to is capable, sincerely altruistic, and sincerely looking out for their best interest. David trusted God. David handed over his need to control to God. Let us choose every moment with David to place our faith in our Triune God–Father, Son, Holy Spirit–and trust his good control. Yes, there is still plenty of disorder and chaos in this world to raise questions, but let us trust that God has it all under “net good” control. Trust him with the big picture. Trust that he has a good answer to your question, “Why…?”
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Rest in the Father’s love for you in Jesus Christ.
I argue that being still before the Lord and resting in the Father’s love for you in Christ is the most important habit of the soul for this life. Let the promises of God to you in Christ calm your chaotic thoughts. Let the Father’s love for you afford you perspective on uncertain circumstances. Nurture your communion with the Spirit in Christ’s Word; you will grow in wisdom for relationships and decisions.
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
Demonstrate your faith in God’s good control by willfully refraining from anger.
There are fewer satisfying feelings than to willfully live out a conviction, to deliberately make a choice based on beliefs. David invites over-controllers to know the joy of demonstrating your faith, your belief that God is ultimately in good control, by refraining from your usual angry spill-over. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you have that split second buffer in your thoughts and will before your feelings instinctually react. There’s wisdom to the old technique of taking a breath or counting in your head when you feel emotions boiling up. Walk away from the trigger if you need to, and return when you can converse calmy and fairly.
I’d love to interact with your thoughts and questions on the matter. Join the Disqus board below. Reach out if you have questions about creating an account (firstname.lastname@example.org).
May you know and experience overflowing grace today.