Joyful Submission

Our world is a mess. Ravaged by the Coronavirus. Divided by inequalities and racism and prejudices. Divided by politics. Earthquakes popping up in South Carolina, and bombs going off in Beirut. It’s out of control. And usually when we feel out of control, our natural human inclination is try to once again gain control of the situation, but as I have found, and maybe you have found to be true too, the more we try to control a situation, the more we feel out of control, and our frustration and despair rises. Our only hope for joy and peace in the midst of turbulent times (as well as good times) is to recognize that we are not in control, but there is one who is, Jesus, and joyfully submitting to Him.

I like to have control over my life, and it’s difficult to give over that control to someone else. It’s hard to trust someone that much, and that deep, that you are willing to give up any and all control over your life, and let someone else lead you. But this is what Jesus asks us to do. To die to ourselves, and live for Him, and His Kingdom. I struggle with this because I want to control my life. I want to control my happiness, and my career, and my direction. But the more and more that I have tried to control my life, the more and more that I have been frustrated and angry because at the end of the day, I see that I have no control over my life really whatsoever.

For example, I can take precautions to not get COVID. I can wash my hands, social distance, and wear a mask, but this does not ultimately determine if I get it or not. I can do all the right things health wise, and still get it. I know people who have. Thankfully I have not. Or on a less serious note, I can go through a drive thru to get food, and I can give them my order, but that does not determine that they will get my order right. At the end of the day, I am in the hands of God, and in my flesh, that is a frustrating, and maddening prospect. That when it truly comes down to it, I control nothing. I make decisions, and have free will, but at the end of the day, God is the one who has the final say in all that happens.

I was at church small group a couple weeks ago, and was just in a place, where I was feeling the frustrations of seeing more and more that I really had no control over my life. That Sunday we had talked about humility, and that humility is the recognition of who we are in light of who God is. On that Wednesday, we read this passage, Psalm 135:1-12, that really produced in my heart joy.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the name of the Lord,
give praise, O servants of the Lord,
who stand in the house of the Lord,
in the courts of the house of our God!
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing to his name, for it is pleasant!
For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel as his own possession.
For I know that the Lord is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
both of man and of beast;
who in your midst, O Egypt,
sent signs and wonders
against Pharaoh and all his servants;
who struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings,
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
and Og, king of Bashan,
and all the kingdoms of Canaan,
and gave their land as a heritage,
a heritage to his people Israel.

As I read this passage, I pictured myself in the story with the psalmist as he is recounting all that the Lord does. And in the psalmist, I didn’t hear in his voice or tone anger or frustration at the fact that it was not him who had control, but God. What I heard and saw was this peace and joy and submission to the recognition of God’s sovereign control over all things, and the Psalmist resting in this. What I heard and sensed was true freedom. An exhaling of breath.

I took the liberty of underlining in this passage what the Psalmist recognized that the Lord controlled:

  • The Lord chose Jacob for Himself, Israel as His own possession
  • He makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth
  • He makes lightning for rain
  • He brings forth the wind from his storehouses
  • He struck down the firstborn of Egypt
  • He sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants
  • He struck down many nations
  • He killed mighty kings
  • He gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.

Now this is not an exhaustive list of all that God does, because that list would be way, way, longer. But these are ways in which the Psalmist recognizes the sovereign hand of God.

Depending on what side of the coin you are on, this passage can be either frightening or joyful. As Jonathan Edwards pointed out, it is a frightful thing to be a sinner in the hands of a Holy God. On the other hand, if we are a beloved son or daughter of God, then seeing that we don’t have the control that we thought we had, but that it is God who does, should bring us joy and peace. Why? Because ultimately the God who is in control of all things is a good and loving Father, who cares about our well being, and everything that He does, whether it is painful, or stretches us, or is uncomfortable, is ultimately for our good. That is why we, like the Psalmist, can joyfully submit, because we know our good and loving Heavenly Father is holding us, and that He knows best. He sees the full picture.

Now the real question is for you and I is, will we submit?

Will we stop trying to hold onto this perceived notion that we are in control, and instead recognize who we are in light of who God is?

Will we recognize that when we joyfully submit to God, to His plan, His will, it’s ultimately the thing that brings us the joy and peace that we’ve been looking for all along? 

I know I still struggle with this. Struggle to let go, and rest in His sovereign control over my life. On a side note, just because I’m saying that God controls all, does not mean that our decisions and choices don’t matter. They do. And we are still responsible. But ultimately God brings to pass all that He sees fit. And all that He sees fit is absolutely perfect and good.

My prayer for myself and for you would be that we would trust God fully and deeply like the Psalmist. That we would recognize that we are not in control. And instead of getting frustrated and angry, or despair at that realization, that we would instead joyfully submit all our anxieties, questions, anger, frustrations, to the Lord, and rest in His all encompassing love and control. He is good. He is loving. That is why we can rest in His presence, and know that He has all of this under control.

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Blessings.