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That’s a Wrap!

Our office just went through a software upgrade to Microsoft Office 365. (For the record, this is not an advertisement; I’m just stating the facts.) With the upgrade comes a little message that remains constant every time my email inbox is empty: “It’s a wrap! Well done, everything’s now under control.”

If my inbox only knew.

Wouldn’t life be grand if an empty email inbox signified that everything is now under control? Ah, if life were only that simple. But it’s not. Although I’m not as skeptical as Clive Barker who wrote, “The control we believe we have is purely illusory, and every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion,” I do believe that much of life is beyond our control.

I cannot control whether or not someone runs a red light and broadsides me. I cannot control the ludicrous weather patterns of Central Indiana. I cannot control how many people show up for worship services at the church I serve. I cannot control gas prices. I cannot control whether or not my daughter’s flight to Costa Rica makes it. I cannot control whether or not my son gets a brain tumor.

I’m not trying to be morbid or defeatist, but I believe greater peace comes when we accept the fact that most of life is beyond our control. It’s when we try to take control of everything that our stress level rises, and our anxiety awakens.

Jesus clearly stated, “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life” (Matthew 6:25). Why not? Because we’re not in control!

Without question, we do have and should have, control over certain aspects of our lives. We should control our tongues, attitudes and actions. We should control how we react when provoked. We should control how we use social media. We should control our spending, time management, and how many episodes of The Walking Dead we really need to see in order to live a fulfilled life.

But just because we exercise control doesn’t mean all of life is under control. It’s that “under” part that tends to create stress—that cancer that isn’t under control; that job loss that isn’t under control; that wayward child who is no longer under your “control.”

Peace comes not from life being under control but from the One who is “over” control. When we place our faith, hope and trust in our loving, heavenly Father who is over all, we step into His realm of peace, even when much of life is not under control.

King David once wrote, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8). David could sleep at night, not because his life was void of problems and pain, but because he trusted that God the Father “is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).

So, the next time you clean out your email inbox, give yourself a pat on the back. “It’s a wrap! Well done.” And then give thanks to the God of heaven who is in control even when life seems out of control. God sees what we do not see, and God does what we cannot do. Now, that's a wrap.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Gratitude in a Season of Turmoil

Do you find it difficult to generate a heart of praise in the midst of problems? Gratitude in a season of turmoil sounds like an oxymoron. I am much more inclined to celebrate in the good times and complain in the bad. But I’m working on making a change, and the birds of the air are teaching me how.

Last week, Laura (my wife) told me that when she let our dog out it was snowing. Snowing. Welcome to Indiana in April. I think the term “Spring Break” means our weather takes a break from spring and digresses back to winter. Two days later when Laura let our dog out, it was storming. Snowing one day, storming the next, but my wife was surprised to hear birds chirping both days.

She couldn’t see the birds, but she heard their sweet chorus of praise even in the storm and the snow. The elements would not deter them. Come what may, they were created to chirp jubilantly, and chirp away they did.

Somehow in God’s created order, plants, animals, sun, moon and stars all do what they were designed to do. Humanity is the only part of God’s creation that gets to choose compliance or rebellion.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that my moments of ingratitude are a reflection of rebellion. I’m unhappy with my lot in life, my circumstances of gloom, and my experiences of misfortune. And so I wallow rather than worship.

Our neighborhood birds, on the other hand, followed the design of their creation. One morning was snowing, one morning was storming, but the birds kept chirping. I need to learn this lesson from our faithful fowls.

When Paul and Silas were shackled in prison, they prayed and worshiped (Acts 16:25). When Peter and the other apostles were beaten and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus, they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41).

The Apostle Paul once wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Philippians 4:11). That includes the times of storms and sunshine, when health is good and when it begins to fail, and when the job is smooth sailing and when it may be ready to sink.

No, the task is not easy, and, no, we won’t always “feel” content, but we can choose contentment just as we can choose joy in spite of the storms of life. Joy and struggle are not antithetical; the first can emerge from the second with our reliance upon Christ. For you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

I don’t connect joy with affliction, but God does—not because He is a vicious sadist wishing us to suffer, but because He sees what comes after. God sees the bigger picture. God knows that pain, suffering and death are not the final word.

We, therefore, can experience joy in affliction, because we know storms do not last. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Maybe that’s why the birds sing in the middle of the storm. They worship the God who will usher in Spring, even if we can only feel the cold.

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