“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” “Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” ~ Steve Maraboli
What can you control in your life? My heart attack taught me that very little of what we think we are controlling is ours to manage. We do not give life, therefore we don’t control what life does. But there is one thing given to us to manage that does determine how we experience this life, and that is choice. In philosophical terms, we call it free will, and it is the capacity to discern between options life presents to us. Victor Frankl wrote concerning his time in Auschwitz, “the only thing no one can take away from you is your ability to respond.” Yes, the Nazis could take his life, or make life absolutely miserable, even to diminishing his humanity, but they could not determine how he would choose to respond to it. He went on to say, ‘Many chose to kill themselves, others chose to give up, having no hope. Those sent to be exterminated, chose to face the end with dignity, others with hysteria, and some with indifference. All of these are choices that no one else can manage for you, your response to circumstances is yours alone to make.’ This is what is known as free will and it is the very thing that sets human beings apart from all else in creation.
Thankfully, I have never experienced the brutal realities of places like Auschwitz. What I have endured though has left its scars on my life. One of the worst of these would probably have to be the betrayal of a close friend. The physical stuff I could rehabilitate from, but the emotional and psychological wounds to the heart are much more penetrating and harder to come to grips with. It was in this struggle that I learned what Faith truly was.
Only a friend can betray, an enemy cannot betray what they never had, that is trust. The pain it causes is so great because the betrayal takes pieces of the heart with it, the very thing you chose to freely give to another person.
It would be easy at this point to respond as the culture tells us and harden our hearts, sealing them against ever being hurt again. But that is choosing to live a slow death, having no hope. It is now that we need something larger than life itself to hold onto, something that has the capacity to sustain us. It is at this point we need to listen to the voice of The Spirit of God saying, “Don’t abandon all you know about God, do not throw away your confidence in Him; for it will be richly rewarded.”
It was here that I had to make a choice. Was I going to allow the despair of the betrayal to consume me, or would I respond to the voice of my God and allow Him to heal my heart through the work of His Spirit in my life? My ‘will’ wanted to protect myself from ever being wounded again, but what I knew about God’s love and power of His Word enabled me to ‘put off my will’ and humble myself under the mighty hand of God, who has lifted me up time and time again.
I learned through this experience that ‘faith is not the absence of fear, but the facing of that fear with confidence in God.’ Paul often speaks of endurance, but enduring or staying ‘under’ hard circumstances in life requires a confidence in the source, reason, and purposes of the motivating principle. The writer of Hebrews said, “…for the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame…” (12:2). Why? Because of what He was confident in; the character and nature of ‘The One’ who has spoken and fulfilled every promise. He knew the purpose and ‘The One’ behind the purpose.
My choice to follow Christ and not my ‘will’ was not me controlling my life. It was me crucifying my will (Gal 2:20) and giving control of my life to the One who has proven time and again, He is able to do wonderfully more than I could ever imagine. Has it been easy? No, like I said – we don’t control life, we don’t control what others choose to do, and how their poor choices cause suffering and great harm. But have I known joy in the midst of the suffering? Yes! This is the essence of Faith in Jesus Christ. It tells us that the eternity promised in Him is of much greater worth than anything that can be taken away or harmed in this life. It is this ‘joy’, not anchored in what is corrupted and passing away, but in the grace of God as manifested to us through Jesus the Son.
It is by God’s enablement that I still stand. I can look back now and see where He has carried me by His grace and love. And I can look forward ‘fixing my eyes on the author and perfecter of my faith’ (Hebrews 12:2a) and press on through the current circumstances, knowing without a doubt that He stands at the Fathers side advocating for me, guiding me home. It is here that I will truly know that ‘rich reward’ He has promised those who endure to the end.
I look forward to the day when I see my Savior face to face. I pray many of you will have chosen to be there too.
Written by David Brown: David Brown is a husband, father, grandfather, Pastor with a Masters of Religious Studies and a Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religions. Dave is the Associate Pastor of Pemberton’s First Baptist Church. He is the author of two devotional books, “From a Chair by the Window.” And “#PrayerWinsThe Day”.
Think About This: “God doesn’t love us because of our worth; we are of worth because God loves us.” – Martin Luther