An often under-diagnosed spiritual disorder we have is what I'd like to call 'OCNCD' - Obsessive Compulsive Need-to-Control Disorder.
It stems from our sinful nature since the early pages of the Bible. The serpent deceptively tells Eve, "You will not certainly die… For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis chapter 3, verses 4-5)
Adam and Eve didn't trust God's ways are good and trustworthy, so they chose to walk out on him and follow their own plans.
There's nothing wrong with making plans but OCNCD creeps into our hearts when we think we have a pretty solid idea of what our lives need to be fulfilling and then we relentlessly go after it. We chase after our ideal career, romantic partner, friendships, body image, personal lifestyle, etc.
When we get what we think we want, we feel quite satisfied… at least for a while. This fallen sinful world have a funny way of making life complicated and difficult. New anxieties and challenges come with a new career. Spending the rest of your life with someone you love isn't a straightforward recipe. Friends make plans without you. Sudden illnesses turn your life upside down.
We're constantly wanting to control our external circumstances to find happiness and personal satisfaction but it's actually making us more depressed and anxious.
Here's a few things I've learned - and am continually learning - about controlling what I can't control.
FIRSTLY accept that you're not in control
We all know this but do you REALLY know this?!
Every morning we need to wake up and remind ourselves that we're not in control.
We can make predictions and educated guesses, but life happens. Unexpected things throw us off-course. A partner can walk out on us, a war breaks out, the internet crashes. Thieves break in, a terrible accident occurs, someone says something that hurts your self-esteem.
There are millions and billions of things happening simultaneously around us and even if we luckily have some things going well for us, we can't protect ourselves from the other unplanned and unforeseen things coming our way.
We need to stop, take a deep breath, and honestly tell ourselves - we're not in control.
SECONDLY practice controlling your internal self
It's so freeing to know and accept that we're not in control. Why keep obsessing over wanting a power that we'll never have?
When we know what we can't do, we can let go and start focussing on what we can do.
God has given us a body, mind and soul, and with it, the greatest gift of all: free will. God allows us to think and make choices. We can't control other people and our external circumstances but we can learn to control our internal self. We get to choose how we see events in our lives and how to respond to them.
We may be challenged by adversities, disliked by others, misunderstood by family and friends. Rather than scheming and manipulating others to get what we want, we can take time to reflect on what's going on internally first. Why am I feeling upset and angry? What do I want out of this situation?
OCNCDs tend to be reactive people and in the end, everyone loses.
We need to take a step back and deal with our sins and insecurities first before we decide how to respond to people and circumstances around us. God wants us to look after ourselves but to love others too.
FINALLY know that God's in control
What's more freeing than knowing that you're not in control? It's knowing that God's in control.
There's someone with more power, wisdom and love than us who is in control of this out-of-control world. God's ways are higher than our ways and there's so many things that happen in life that we don't know the answers to.
But one day, when Jesus returns and we see God face-to-face in the new heaven and earth, we'll be able to sit down with God and chat about our lives in this world. Ask him about why you got sick or didn't get the job you interviewed for or why you didn't end up having kids.
I don’t know many things in this world but I do know God has answers for us.
Be patient. God's in control.
Rachel is a pastor, preacher and writer. Based in Sydney, she’s a fan of literature, sport and the arts. Check out her website rachellhli.wordpress.com