You see t-shirts and signs that proclaim that I am in control of my success. I used to imagine that I was the master of my destiny and slogans like these sounded really empowering.
“If it is to be, it is up to me”
“If you can dream it you can achieve it”
I agree that having a good attitude and determination is important. But sometimes my life experience is more accurately described by the great boxer and philosopher Mike Tyson.
“Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth”
Yep. Well said Mike. No matter how much I may plan my life I will face the inevitable “punches” in the mouth that life delivers. No amount of efforts to control my life will prevent illness. I do not have control over every relationship in my life. I cannot keep those I care about from making bad decisions. I cannot control unforeseeable circumstances that alter my career. Recently I have had a couple of Mike Tyson moments.
James warns about the folly of thinking that we are in control.
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16, NLT)
The one thing we can be sure of is that we have trials and heartaches in this journey. The question I must answer is how will I deal with the inevitable? I wrote about the answer to that question in my book Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace.
One person responds to tragedy with deeper faith. Another turns from God in anger, perhaps never to return. What is the difference? Perhaps this parable that Jesus related in Matthew’s Gospel offers the biggest clue. When the storm hits, what matters most is the foundation that you have built your faith upon.
Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)
I have dealt with loss by relying on both types of foundations. My early theology was built on the shifting sand of self-effort and discipline. When the storm came, my “house of faith” collapsed like a house of cards. When I began to build on a foundation of identity and trusting who God is, my house of faith weathered the storm without being completely destroyed. The storm battered me full force, but the house stood.
What is that foundation made of? I would suggest that these are the foundation stones.
God is all powerful.
God is all knowing.
God is love.
God is holy.
God is good.
God is just.
God is righteous.
God is grace.
God is sovereign.
God is unchanging.
God is joy.
God is forgiving.
God is truth.
God is patient.
If the gospel message is true—and I believe it is—then God says to trust Him when we face trials. His ways are not our ways, and His timing is certainly not ours, but His love is real.
Today I choose to stand on that foundation. I am not in control but I am confident in the One who is. To quote the old hymn that my dad loved so much.
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know Who holds tomorrow
And I know Who holds my hand