“It’s like I’m standing on the Rock and conjuring up a storm instead of battling from a settled place.”
This mental image came to me during a conversation John and I were having a few months ago. I remember driving by a car accident and was pulling into my driveway 15 minutes later before I thought to pray for those involved. That’s when the glaring realization hit: my earnaholism is still handicapping my doing and being for God.
Before I go on, maybe you’re asking, what is earnaholism? It’s a term coined by yours truly to describe a way of life. You might be earnaholic if you spend most of your life anxiously trying to work for and earn what God has already given you in Christ Jesus. One fruit of earnaholism is the steady exchange of trust for control.
I’m an expert at wanting control, and if I trace worry, fear or discontentment back to the source it is usually an effort at control. How would you fill in the blank of these sentences:
If I do ______, I’ll be okay.
If I have ______, I’ll feel safe.
When I ‘safe’ here, I don’t simply mean safe from harm. I also mean ‘safe’ as living loved, chosen, secure, sustained and at peace.
We exchange trust for control when we fill those blanks with anything other than Jesus.
I confess my self-image, my feelings of okayness, want to be wrapped up in other people, my comfort, and in being good enough. Thus I do a lot of controlling myself and my environment as to make sure I stay safe from what I fear most, which is rejection. This way of living is like trying to stand on a bubble. It’s impossible, and a little ludicrous. The truth is my identity is in Christ. He alone is my portion and my cup, He is what I want and He is what I have. And when I live from this trust, I can spend more energy thinking about others, praying for others, serving others, because I don’t have to worry about me. I’m safe, with God.
Control feels easier, even better, most days, but the fruit is anxiety, restlessness and self-absorption. Trust takes more effort, practice and help from the Holy Spirit, but its fruit is peace, courage and generosity.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Control has a ceiling. Its illusion of peace and steadiness can only go so far because they are dependent on me. Trust is endless. Its confidence is entirely in God.
Robert Mullholland writes, “In a world where such order and control are partial at best, anxious care can become a consuming passion that misshapes all relationships, all events and all activities of one’s life.” He concludes that anxiety-driven persons, those striving for control, “cannot be agents of God’s grace to a broken and hurting world. They are in bondage to the need to impose their order upon the world.”
You are safe in Christ, because of Christ, with Christ. It’s unshakeable, unmovable, unchanging. No rejection, no failure, no fear, no circumstance, no loss can alter that safety. But it takes trust. It’s an open-handed release of ourselves to God. It’s a consistent turning our whole being to God so His presence can be released through us.
Friend to friend, may I encourage you to sit with those sentences yourself. Would you fill those blanks with Jesus or with other things? Where are you exchanging the experience you could have of God for control? Where can you start trusting Him a little bit more?