Updated on May 12, 2014
When I Replace Hope with Control
Last Sunday, as we pulled out of the church parking lot, I asked my husband if he would like to take his wife to breakfast. Of course, he said yes, and we pulled into the cafe’ on the corner. As I sat across the breakfast table from my husband, I said:
I feel like I don’t have any hope.
He looked at me a little puzzled. And as I tried to say why I felt that way, I stumbled over my words:
It’s as though life has just become a grind and it’s wearing on me.
Earlier that morning, the worship leader in church asked if anyone in the building felt like they were drowning in life. I raised my hand and my husband looked over at me and squeezed my hand as he said, “Don’t drown.” Tears welled up in my eyes and I recalled the day previous where I had heard my dear friend Lisa tell the story of her son’s struggle with addiction, and his eventual healing and becoming clean and sober. It is a powerful story of God’s grace and redemption. Lisa and her family had to go through a lot of pain that I can’t begin to imagine to get to the good stuff, to be in the place where they are today. I know they wish they never had to go through it at all, but they are proof of God’s great recycling in our lives. He takes what is broken and turns it into something new, different and useful.
It stirred up a lot of emotion in my heart to hear Lisa’s story. Not just the “Oh isn’t it just awful what she went through?” kind of emotion. It was the kind of deep, distressed emotion that questioned whether her God and my God were really one in the same, because her God did a miracle, and I’m just not sure my God will.
You see, when life feels out of control, I have this need to control things around me. When my anxiety rises, my need to grasp at what I can control rises with it. It’s my way of coping. The more I try to hold on to people and things, the more I feel them slipping through my hands and I’m left with nothing but a failed attempt to force an outcome that I was never meant to control at all.
Never has this been more evident, than in my recent years parenting adult children. My kids are almost 20 and 21. They live at home. They have their own, separate-from-mom lives. Yet, they still need me, even when they don’t want to need me. But I still want to control them. I want to make their choices for them. I want to impart my 50+ years of wisdom into their 20 year old brains.
And now I get to have REAL faith.
I figured out that my lack of hope, stemmed from my lack of faith. Faith is believing in something you can’t see. And it takes real faith to believe that God loves my children more than I possibly could and that he knows my heart and hears my prayers. And what he asks of me is to stop trying to quench my anxiety by trying to control them. Instead, he has said to me all week long,
Have faith. Give them over to me. Let me do my work and you do your work.
And I sigh. Because this is a lesson I’ve been learning over and over and over in my life. I have a hunch I will continue to learn it over and over…
My friend Lisa said this about her journey with her son, “What is dead, God can bring back to life.” I believe her because her son is a living, breathing example of God bringing the dead back to life. But for me? Maybe that’s not the way things will work out. Maybe those people and situations will never turn around. I mean, God doesn’t fix everything, even though he can. Humans have free will and maybe their will is going to get in the way. And there goes hope, right out the window.
And because I am a slow-learner, God often gives me visual cues to the work he is doing in me. And thank God for that because really… I need him to break it down Barney-style for me sometimes!
Here’s what he graced me with this week:
Most of the potted plants in my back yard are dead. Lifeless. Useless. No amount of water or fertilizer is going to bring them back to life. (I do NOT have a green thumb!) They need to be discarded and I need to plant new life in those pots. But a few weeks ago, I saw one of my dead plants had some green buds on it. I had not watered or fertilized or coaxed or begged it to come to life. It happened without my intervention. And now, it is blooming. Small, fragile new life bursting from the plant that seemed dead.
So it’s a reminder to me that things are not always what they seem. What is dead, God can bring back to life.
Broken relationships. Wayward children. A distant spouse. A lost dream.
Are you without hope? Does life seem to be pulling you under so that you feel you might drown? Maybe you don’t even dare to hope, because God seems far off and doesn’t seem to be doing anything at all to change your situation.
But there’s this: Abraham and Sarah had a baby when Sarah was 91 years old. (See Genesis 3) They had to wait 25 years after God first promised them a child for Isaac to be born. They tried to make it happen on their own while they were waiting. They doubted God’s plan. They lost hope. Their faith was shaky. But finally, it did happen, just as God said. Sarah… shriveled ovaries and all, had a baby boy.
That story has reminded me this week that I can have hope. I have to choose hope. I have to have faith in something I can’t see or control and trust that God will be holding me regardless of the outcome.
What are you holding tightly to? What are you praying for? What are you hoping for? Believe in the One who holds you. Have faith to believe that you can loosen your grip and he will not leave you. Hold on to Him.
PS… You can find Lisa here: http://lisaespinoza.wordpress.com/