In my own life I appreciate a larger group knowing my struggles, but I only reveal the full extent of my pain to those I trust not to share my heart with others. We are all different in this regard, and we do need to be careful we don’t limit God’s intervention in our lives by pushing people away. Yet, clarifying how we wish to manage the compassion we need helps everyone. (yesterday’s post on “comfort”)
The second need, control, is closely related to comfort. The desire to bring definition to the way compassion is shown demonstrates the value we place on orderliness in our lives. Most people I meet at the center of a crisis are desperately seeking some sense of control over their circumstances. We understand this human trait instinctively, which is why we give the people we love space to pursue their compulsions.
We can establish control in our lives and still acknowledge we are not in control of everything. For example, believers know God is in control. With the psalmist they proclaim, “The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake.” (Psalm 99:1 NIV) Yet, though we know God is in control, we still need to know we have the power to personally influence events in our lives. This is why we find those who have lost loved ones cooking, cleaning and administrating instead of letting others serve them. When people can’t do something about everything they do everything possible about something.
When my father died, I was spared the stress of planning a funeral because my parents had already worked out the details. And my mother was very capable of managing. My control issues had more to do with emotion. My brother and I spoke at the funeral, which was certainly an emotional experience. However, it was my grieving process that stirred my obsessive instincts. I couldn’t determine the time and place of my father’s death, but I could choose those I allowed into my circle of pain, and when. I had no desire to mask my feelings around my wife, who was on the journey with me, but I did guard other relationships. And thankfully, those around me understood. Ironically, I would sometimes share my grief with hundreds of people from a pulpit because it was a place I could control. Since people don’t normally talk back to a sermon, I was able to restrict the scope and depth of my revelations.
I encourage others to find areas of their lives they can control, while reminding them not to be so consumed they forget to lean on God and the people He sends into their lives. Talking through a crisis is usually a first step in this process. Sometimes the simple act of sharing information with others is enough to help us see our circumstances from a new perspective and reduce our anxieties. When we go through a trial, finding a way to control what we can while letting others help, allows us to order our steps and strengthens our awareness of the hope God has put before us.
How do you believe controlling our environment can help us through a trial? How can it hurt us?
Dear God, help me remember You are ultimately in control. In Jesus’ name, Amen.