Having kids has taught me way more about life than I ever wanted to know! There was a peaceful bliss to the pre-kid ignorance. I saw myself as a fairly responsible and competent person. Now, after 9 years of parenting, I realize I’m not quite as refined and put together as I thought! Admitting your weaknesses and a need for growth is incredibly valuable. Is it possible for you to see your weaknesses as a good thing?
Our culture doesn’t tolerate weakness very well. We pride ourselves on being “self-made”, “independent”, and “having it under control”. But how much of your life is actually under your control? I’ve noticed how exhausting it is to try and keep the world around me under my control. No matter how hard I work at having a healthy, safe, financially secure, and harmonious home and family I keep having to adjust to the outside circumstances and trials that come my way.
Proverbs 16:9 haunts me, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
What am I supposed to do? What is God gonna do? Perhaps you are like me and you’ve come to a few moments in your life where you can’t quite figure out the tension between your responsibility and God’s sovereignty. God’s Sovereignty is a weighty truth full of power and mystery. It compels trust and yet confounds our hearts. God’s sovereignty speaks to his ability to be in control of all things but does not necessarily mean that He is controlling you. So what do I control?
The author of Proverbs 4:23 explains, ” Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” We can control our heart. Paul hones in on one of our responsibilities, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified…” (Rom. 10:10) We control our hearts and we are responsible to believe. It reminds me of the adage, “You can’t control what people do to you, but you can control your response.” I believe my mother must have said that to me once.
I may not be able to control the sickness, the loss, the weather, my spouse, or other workings within my life, but I can control the attitude and response of my heart. This year has tested the tension in my life between control and character. It’s easier to work on being in Control than it is to work on Character. I’d much rather try and tweak the circumstances or people around me to fit my perspective. I’d much rather strategize on how to work out my own agenda than to submit myself to character growth. It is not my weaknesses I want to focus on. I’d prefer to administer a solution that suits me.
Is it possible that even when things don’t go according to our plans that God’s plan will triumph? As Joseph stated towards his abusive brothers many years later, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gen. 50:20) The key reason why Joseph ended up in that position with an attitude of forgiveness, compassion, and generosity was due to the response of his heart many years earlier. Joseph saw God’s sovereignty as the best plan and his heart as the available soil. He didn’t wait for God to work it all out first and then decide to change his heart. He believed ahead of time that it was worth trusting God’s goodness before things turned out good.
Can you trust that what is going on right now can be used of God for good in your life someday? The key to character growth is allowing the soil of your heart to develop and grow under the sovereign goodness of God’s bigger plan. Let go of the things, and the people, you can’t control and embrace the weaknesses that make you available for God to do something good. I know there are moments when that feels like things are out of control. It is scary to feel like people are forcing you in a direction or overpowering you. Joseph knows that uncomfortable space. As his brothers plotted to kill him and as his brothers succeeded in selling him into slavery I’m sure he felt out of control and worried about his future. But did those brothers have the final say on Joseph’s destiny? NO. Not even his brothers could wrestle Joseph away from the goodness of God. That person doesn’t have any power over you except that which God has allowed for future goodness.
There will probably always be a debate about man’s responsibility and how much effect it has on God’s eternal outcomes. I can’t answer to the degree of my importance in these lofty matters but I can control my heart. Will my heart chose anger? Will it want to be selfish? Will it feel the need to be in control? Maybe. I am weak. But I’m learning it’s okay to admit that. And yet, even my heart won’t grow without a work of God. May he have his way. May He do what only He can do and bring beauty out of this mess.