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10 Things I Can Control When Life Feels Uncontrollable

God brings stability and support when we feel like we’re spinning out of control.
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Have you ever felt out of control? If you were a person living through the year 2020, the answer is most likely 100% yes. 

The other day I was reflecting on the past year and laughed a little bit to myself about the mental state I was in back in March. Quarantine? For two weeks? How??

I was terrified, because I had no idea what was going to happen. I was so used to holding onto the illusion that I was in control of most of what happens in my life, but this wake-up call made me quickly realize that wasn’t the case. The more we have been dealing with the effects of the pandemic, the more I’ve seen this to be true.

Being out of control is a scary feeling. Zoe Wees sings about this feeling in her song, “Control.”

I don’t wanna lose control
Nothing I can do anymore
Tryin’ every day when I hold my breath
Spinnin’ out in space pressing on my chest
I don’t wanna lose control
I need you to know, I would never be this strong without you
You’ve seen how I’ve grown, you took all my doubts, ’cause you were home

Zoe Wees, “Control”

Zoe Wees remembers what it feels like to be out of control and is terrified of that feeling coming back. Like she says in the song, being out of control can feel like we’re “spinning out in space.”

But when life feels uncontrollable, we can’t afford to try to handle it all on our own. 

“When the earth and everyone living upon it spin into chaos, I am the One who stabilizes and supports it.”

Psalm 75:3 VOICE

God brings stability and support when we feel like we’re spinning out of control.

Being in this time has made me realize that though there is a lot in my life that I can’t control, the things I can control are the ones that matter. 

My prayer life

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Romans 12:11-13 MSG

When hard times come, it’s easy to want to quit. Quitting looks different for everyone – it could mean isolating from relationships, settling with just trying to get by, staying busy so you don’t have to slow down enough to deal with what’s in your heart.

We can’t control when hard times come, but as this scripture says, we can control how much we pray. Choosing to stick it out in prayer is what keeps our hearts fueled and aflame, even when circumstances give us an excuse to accept burnout.

I waited a long time for the Eternal; He finally knelt down to hear me. He listened to my weak and whispered cry. He reached down and drew me from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and clay. With a gentle hand, He pulled me out To set me down safely on a warm rock; He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.

Psalm 40:1-2 Voice

Prayer is an opportunity to quiet our hearts to the noise. It’s a safe place we can go to unload and unwind when we feel stranded and overwhelmed.

God isn’t impatiently waiting for us to get it together when we feel like we can’t handle life. He holds us until we are steady enough to continue the journey again.

Reflection questions

  • What does quitting look like for you?
  • What do you feel stranded in? How can you make your prayers with God a safe place?

How much Bible I take in

As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.

Psalm 119:143 NLT

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. [29] Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. [30] For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 Voice

When we feel pressure and stress, it is hard to find relief. This is especially true during a time where it feels like we have to constantly be on alert, and it can be hard to find the time to take breaks and rest.

But we are not meant to carry the burden of our life alone. Even if we can’t always control the pressure we face, we can control where we turn for relief.

Like Jesus describes in Matthew 28, God can provide us the relief and encouragement we are so desperately looking for. His yoke is perfectly “fitted to our curves”, and he gives us the strength to keep pushing forward.

The way we access his relief and rest is by choosing to listen to and learn from him, through reading the Bible.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15:4 NRSV 

We need the Bible and scriptures to keep up hope. Holding onto scriptures that remind us of God’s love, God’s purpose, and what we can do to grow encourages us to stay in the fight even when we’re discouraged.

The great thing is that there are plenty of resources to help you get more Bible in. For example, one new resource, Just Say the Word, is a podcast focused simply on reading the Bible in small, bite-sized chunks to help someone set their heart in the morning.

Reflection questions

  • What do you need relief from?
  • What scriptures can help you stay in the fight?

Enjoying my relationship with God

Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive fails And the fields produce no food, Though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls, [18] Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the LORD; I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation!

Habakkuk 3:17-18 AMP

Circumstances do not have to determine how much we enjoy our relationship with God. It is a choice to make our relationship with God personal and something we appreciate and enjoy. 

I love getting creative in my times with God, and this has had to especially be true during the pandemic. I like finding places to pray that are special to me and God, and I have specific memories attached to those places where I’ve poured out my heart to God, gotten vision for a friend, or seen a prayer answered.

I love connecting music with the Bible, finding songs that remind me of scriptures to help me understand God’s perspective better. No matter what is going on, we can always find ways to enjoy our times with God.

Keep trusting in the Lord and do what is right in his eyes. Fix your heart on the promises of God and you will be secure, feasting on his faithfulness. [4] Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and he will provide for you what you desire the most.

Psalm 37:3-4 TPT

Is God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life? If not, what is? It could be ourselves, others’ approval, achievement, or anything that drives out our love for God (1 John 2:15-17 MSG).

God wants to give us what we desire most, but that comes when we fix our hearts on him and make our times with him personal and special.

Reflection questions

  • What is taking the place of God in your heart?
  • What creative ways can you enjoy your times with God?

Trusting God

I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose. Yet I leave it all in the LORD’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.” [5] And now the LORD speaks— the one who formed me in my mother’s womb to be his servant, who commissioned me to bring Israel back to him.

The LORD has honored me, and my God has given me strength. [6] He says, “You will do more than restore the people of Israel to me. I will make you a light to the Gentiles, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:4-6 NLT

Isaiah expresses in this scripture what many of us can feel: that all the work he was doing was pointless. What if all the good he was trying to do, the ways he was trying to stay in the fight, was going to go nowhere? But instead of giving into those fears and doubts, Isaiah decided to trust God.

The cool thing is God’s response to Isaiah, showing him his purpose. Isaiah was meant to be a light and make an impact on more people than he could even imagine. 

In the moment, it can feel like what we’re doing is useless and going nowhere. But when we choose to trust God, we can see that God hasn’t given up on us and is getting us ready for a vision beyond what we can see now.

Reflection questions

  • What feels like it’s going nowhere right now?
  • What purpose is God trying to move you toward?

Being honest about my heart

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23 NLT

The condition of our hearts determines everything else. I often neglect what is in my heart, especially when life feels uncontrollable.

I don’t like digging and dealing with my sins, emotions, and fears, and so I settle with staying unaware and just getting by. But this is like putting a bandaid over a leaky pipe. It doesn’t actually fix anything, and at some point, it’s going to burst.

[12] Beware then of your own hearts, dear brothers, lest you find that they, too, are evil and unbelieving and are leading you away from the living God. [13] Speak to each other about these things every day while there is still time so that none of you will become hardened against God, being blinded by the glamor of sin.

Hebrews 3:12-13 TLB

We can understand and guard our hearts when we encourage each other to be aware of, honest about, and guard against the evil thoughts and doubt that can crowd out God.

When things feel like they are too hard to change, we must look at how much we are engaging in these kinds of relationships. We may not be able to control what happens around us, but we can control how honest we are about our hearts with God and friends, and this helps us handle the hard times that come.

Reflection questions

  • How aware are you of the condition of your heart?
  • What 2 friends can you be honest with today, and encourage each other to turn to God?

My attitude/outlook

Blessed are those who make You their strength, for they treasure every step of the journey [to Zion].

Psalm 84:5 Voice

When life is hard, it’s easy to only see the negative.

When we go to God for strength and let him change the way we think (Romans 12:2), we see life for what it is: a journey! This allows us to see everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly – as just another step on our journey, and we can treasure all of it.

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. [19] This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Hebrews 6:18-19 NLT

Holding onto hope anchors us. Hope helps us go through both the good and bad times without wavering, because we are looking at life through the lens of what God’s doing, rather than what we see as possible.

Reflection questions

  • How do you see your hard times – as a journey, or just something to survive?
  • How can you focus on what God’s doing rather than yourself today?

How much I learn during this time

The spiritually hungry are always ready to learn more, for their hearts are eager to discover new truths.

Proverbs 18:15 TPT

When we are eager to discover more ways to grow, we will always find ways to learn, no matter what we are going through. When we don’t want to see or tell truth, when we get defensive and try to prove ourselves, when we compete and want to be better than others, we have stopped trying to learn.

Being ready to learn more means having the humility to see the areas in our heart and life where we need to grow and the honesty to admit it.

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. [13] Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.

1 Peter 4:12-13 NLT

When life is difficult, it’s easy to put the blame on God and expect him to take away the pain. But rather than focus on escaping hard times, we can look for opportunities to learn and grow to be more like Jesus. The Message translation calls these trials a “refining process.”

Do you have dreams and vision you want to accomplish? Then embrace the refining process, which will shape you to become the person who is able to achieve those dreams.

Reflection questions

  • What are the opportunities God is giving you to learn?
  • How do you need to be refined in order to become who God is calling you to be?

What I use my time for

Lord, I have chosen you alone as my inheritance. You are my prize, my pleasure, and my portion. I leave my destiny and its timing in your hands.

Psalm 16:5 TPT

When we believe that God is taking care of our lives and their timing, we don’t feel the need to hoard time for ourselves. 

Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love.

Hebrews 10:24 – TPT

God is taking care of us and wants to give us the rest we need, so we can use our time to be creative in helping and loving others. It makes our time exciting and refreshing, rather than just focused on ourselves.

Reflection questions

  • What do you use your time for?
  • What creative ways can you help and love others?

Loving others

I’ve been broken, lost, depressed, oppressed, and weak that I might find favor and gain the weak. I’m flexible, adaptable, and able to do and be whatever is needed for all kinds of people so that in the end I can use every means at my disposal to offer them salvation.

1 Corinthians 9:22 Voice

We don’t have to wait until everything is stable and perfect in our lives in order to love and give to others. In the above scripture, Paul used his brokenness and lostness to love and have compassion on others. He didn’t see his difficulties or weaknesses as obstacles to love, but rather as opportunities. 

When we first started quarantine, I had a little bit of a pity party. I was mad and afraid about what was happening in the world and doubted that God really cared. All I wanted to do was just stick to myself and survive, and I felt pretty justified doing that. But scriptures like 1 Corinthians 9 convicted me.

There are so many people who are suffering right now, so many people who feel alone and have no one thinking or caring about them. I may not be able to control what is happening in the world, but I can control what I do to care.

I may speak in different languages, whether human or even of angels. But if I don’t have love, I am only a noisy bell or a ringing cymbal. [3] I may give away everything I have to help others, and I may even give my body as an offering to be burned. But I gain nothing by doing all this if I don’t have love.

1 Corinthians 13:1,3 ERV

To God, nothing else matters compared to love. We could do everything perfectly, learn everything there is to know, and read our Bibles and pray as much as we want. But if these don’t lead us to love, they mean nothing.

Hard times are an opportunity to pass on to others the love that God is constantly giving us (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, either.

I’ve made playlists and Bible studies for friends, called or texted friends just to let them know I’m thinking of them, donated and safely volunteered for groups that need it. It doesn’t take skill, a lot of money, or perfect moral behavior to love. It just takes a choice.

Reflection questions

  • How can God’s love for you motivate you to love others?
  • Who can you choose to love today?

How much vision/faith I have

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Proverbs 29:18 – KJV

No matter what we’re going through, we get messed up when we don’t have vision.

When we don’t have a greater purpose pushing us forward (Proverbs 16:26 TPT), we will settle, compromise, and become dull or hardened. Vision and faith keep us in the fight even when we are tired or discouraged.

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. [21] He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.

Romans 4:20-21 NLT

Abraham had every reason to give up. He was 100 years old, with no hope of having a child. But when God promised that an entire nation would descend from him, Abraham never wavered in believing him. Not only that, but his faith actually grew stronger.

When we are convinced that God is who he says he is, difficulties and obstacles strengthen our faith rather than weaken it, because we are excited to see God do the impossible!

Reflection questions

  • What feels impossible right now? How can you trust God to do the unimaginable?
  • What vision has God put on your heart to move toward?
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