My mind was racing.
Each thought, each possibility, was a playing card. My imagination was the Casino Dealer, and my mind eagerly collected each card. Like most gamblers, I was addicted to the game. My mind quickly reviewed each adverse card, desperate for another with a better fate.
The Casino scene is fascinating. All kinds of people. They were all different from one another, yet shared one common quality: they were addicted to the game.
Anxiety is an addicting game.
It is human nature to keep ourselves busy. To connect with friends, find community, discover our passions, etc. When we have too little or too much of these things, the feeling of exasperation and restlessness is inevitable.
It is my own personal experience that when I am too busy, I get anxious. Further, when I am not busy at all, I get anxious. When things are finally balanced, I still get anxious because the peace is too good to be true.
That is when the game of anxiety becomes addicting.
The Casino Dealer steps forward, and we gladly partake in his game. A man might think, “My relationship is going so well right now. It has never been this stable. Wait… Something is not right. It’s always so bad, why is it so good?”
Then the casino dealer smirks, then fans his cards of possible answers. The man nervously clenches his jaw, breathes, and stretches his hand forward.
No! That is not happening. This is not happening.
He stretches his hand forward again. And again. And again. Each card worse and more adverse than the last.
We have become so used to the inconsistencies and surprises of this world, that we start flirting with them even when they are not there. When things finally get good, we start doubting ourselves. Keyword: ourselves.
I want you to accept, highlight, memorize, and eat this statement: I cannot control my situations.
When my counselor first said that for me to recite back to her, I got defensive. No one likes being separated from control. Separation from control creates doubt, and doubt creates anxiety.
The big, ugly, scary truth is that we are never in control. We can trick ourselves into thinking we are. We can control the movements of a vehicle, our bodies, our effort, and on and on and on. But when it comes to personal, real-life situations, our control is similar to our breath-control. We can hold our breath as long as we want, but our lungs will eventually take over and draw in air. We can even hold it till we pass out cold. Yet even then, our lungs involuntarily restart.
Just like we can’t control our breath-holding, we can’t control the actions and emotions of other people. We can’t control the outcome of our high school relationship, college application, job interview, or competition. Yet we can control how we act during and after these times. We can choose to accept what we do not yet know, and therefore cannot control, or we can become deeply addicted to the game of creating imaginary (dare I say “possible”) outcomes. There is a beauty of accepting our inabilities. When we choose to accept what we are incapable of, we allow something or someone else to handle it for us.
God is capable of handling it for us.
Even when we completely mouth off to our best friend in a fit of impulsive fury and believe we have burnt the bridge for good, God has a plan for that. When our plans don’t work out as we thought they would, it is easy to think God is against our happiness. I’ve thought that before. What I learned is that we hurt more when we aggressively fight for our plans and neglect God’s perfect, flowing, timely schedule.
This statement stands true to nearly all situations. The more times I call my ex crying, the less he wants to hear from me and the bigger the hole in my heart grows. The more I worry about my reputation, the more manifest my insecurities become. The more I check for a text that isn’t going to be there, the greater the rejection feels.
The more we go against God’s will, the more hurt we will be. This self-inflicted hurt empties us of happiness and belonging, and replaces itself with anxiety and rejection. Anxiety is the mother of all unwanted feelings: bitterness, resentment, hatred, inadequacy, loneliness, ineptness, sadness, fear, and selfishness.
So how do we combat our lack of control?
My answer is Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”
When we lean on our own understanding and control, things quickly spiral. The path curves. The road becomes covered in fog. Our feet get tired and we start to sway. Our minds become exasperated and give up. We weren’t meant to control our situations. We weren’t meant to understand our situations. God is right there. We need to stop flirting with inconsistencies and mysteries, and start submitting ourselves to the bigger picture. God’s picture.
How He must hurt with us when we wander and explore various paths that are not His loving, perfect design.
We are not meant to control. We are not meant to understand all of the setbacks, people, achievements, opinions, rejections, injustices, and limitations of life. Why try when we have a God who works all things, even the things that hurt us to our core, for good?
I hope that was a comforting rhetorical question. If not, re-read Proverbs 3:5-6 a couple times until it hits home. Maybe recite it in front of a mirror. Whatever works, works.
All the peace,