Let Go of What is Beyond Our Control

 In Jason Bunger, Preaching & Teaching

I recall seeing these words hanging on the wall of a good friend’s apartment a few months before they passed.  They are probably as memorable to you as they were to me the first time I read them. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  It has become apparent to me that I need to be more mindful of these words in my everyday life!   

I cannot even remember what it was, but earlier this year some things clearly had me concerned.  Early one morning, I awoke and prayerfully made a list of the things that I could not control.  Then I began to make a list of the things that I could control.  My list looked something like this:   


Things I Cannot Control

Things I Can Control

Many of the situations, though not all, where I find myself. My attitude toward those situations.
Political, racial, economic and gender conflicts. How I intentionally choose to reach out to people different than me. 
Economic conditions of Dayton. The economic conditions of my wallet. 
What others say about me. What I choose to say about others.
How people respond to the good news of Jesus. Being certain that I demonstrate that the good news of Jesus is, in fact, good news! 
The climate in Ohio. What type of winter coat to buy.
What other people in my industry are doing with their resources and opportunities. What I choose to do with my resources and opportunities. 
My genetic lottery.  How I care for my body with exercise, diet and rest.
What the children do when they are away from home. What is modeled and taught in the home.
What the stock market does. Intentional investment over a lifetime. 
The moral compass of any nation. The moral compass in my own decisions.
What the media promotes.  Which media I choose to consume and how much of it I consume. 
Housing trends. How I love my neighbor. 
Conflict outside of my control. Building a culture of trust among the people close to me. 
God sending revival to His people. The amount I seek, desire and prepare for both personal and corporate revival. 
The current condition of the Cincinnati Reds. How much I allow my identity to be determined by the playoff chances of my favorite teams.
The opportunities that we are handed.  What I do with the opportunities that I am handed.  The opportunities that I hand to someone else.
What has happened in the past and what the future holds.  What I do with this day!

This action and this list helped me realize that my joy would be determined by which list was most worthy of my focus.   It also occurred to me that the more I engaged with the things I cannot control, the more I disengaged from the things that I could control.  In other words, if I don’t focus on list of “things I can control” then everything on the “things I can control” list gets moved to the “things I cannot control” list.  Imagine if we treated everything that we can control, as if it was something that we cannot control.  Sadly, if we are not careful, that is what each of us can find ourselves doing. 

Fact #1:  We all MUST live in a world that we cannot control. Each of us live in an environment where are there are a certain number of environmental, genetic, social financial, political and spiritual realities that are beyond our control.  We live in a complex “ecosystem” that we do not have dominion over and very little influence within it.    

Fact #2:  We all CAN also live in a world that we can control. There are things in life that we can control.  We may not be able to control what we want to control, but we can always control something.

Fact #3:  If we are not careful, we will lose control of the things that we can control if spend our energies on the things that we cannot control.  The quickest way to remaining a victim or becoming a lunatic is to sacrifice what we can control because we have obsessed about what we cannot control. 

Perhaps this is why the Apostle Paul could write from prison that they were to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”  We can rejoice when we refocus on the following words to the Philippians 4:4-8:

Paul tells them (and us) to take the things that cannot be controlled to God in prayer.  “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  We are not commanded to control the things that we cannot control, but encouraged to be prayerful about them. 

Then, Paul commands them to be in control of the things they can control by directing their attention and actions to the things within their influence.  Paul writes: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” 

In all situations of life, we must pray about what we cannot control, identify what we can control and prayerfully work within the realm of our control.   I would encourage you to make your two lists.  I trust things will be much more clear for you as well. 

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  • Patty Buck

    This was a blessing to me today. Thanks for sharing a large eye opener!! It is so easy for us to get on the wrong path just by not sitting and thinking abt a situation.
    Yes or no and the reason.
    You did it again Pastor. THANK YOU

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