I suppose I’ve always liked to control things — to plan my career or vacations or schedule my day in half-hour increments, for efficiency’s sake.
It was a gift, I thought, this mapping out of my life so I didn’t waste time reaching my goals. That was until I found myself in the emergency room unable to breathe at age 25. I squeezed my husband’s hand so tightly his fingers pulsed as the doctor told me a football-sized tumor entangled my lungs. And to complicate the situation more, I was six weeks pregnant with our first child.
You can’t control that.
Not your health.
Oh, you can eat organically and exercise obsessively and take practical steps to prevent disease, but sometimes when you least suspect it, disease happens.
Curled into myself on the couch, fatigued and fearful of what the future held for me and my unborn baby, I did the only thing I could: I prayed with great sincerity that God would heal me from my cancer.
But he didn’t.
No matter which prayer position I tried or what health tactic I dabbled in, my disease deflated me. One afternoon, a sharp, stabbing pain shot through my chest and an uncontrollable cough gurgled out. It grew louder and rattled deeper inside my core. With no other options, no other way out, I started chemotherapy during the second trimester of my pregnancy.
The person who once found great comfort in controlling her situations couldn’t heal her disease or protect her baby or make sense of all the uncertainty surrounding her life. I didn’t like this new reality very much, because it meant surrendering control.
I had a sneaky suspicion this wasn’t a coincidence.
One thing was certain, staring sickness in the face changed my goals. I no longer cared about becoming successful in my career, or being debt free, or if my house resembled a Pottery Barn catalog. I just wanted to live long enough to hold a healthy baby girl, maybe see her ride a bike, and if I was really blessed, watch her walk down the aisle.
Perspective is a beautiful thing.
A month into my treatments, I was still calculating the outcome of my situation when a good friend had the guts to say, “Once you realize you’re not in control, life gets a whole lot easier.”
Well, hello wisdom.
I needed this little gem of insight typeset on a hot-pink sticky note, plastered to my bathroom mirror as a daily reminder.
Stop taking God’s job.
Stop being a control freak and take a breather.
Internally obsessing about the outcome helps no one and left me miserably fretful. I wished a nifty toggle switch were embedded in my brain so I could flick it off and not think about the unanswered questions in my life. Only, I wouldn’t fully learn this lesson of releasing my issues for years — a decade to be exact — because I went on to battle multiple life-threatening illnesses.
I can say now with confidence that the sweetest hours of my life came in the morning when I lay face first, calling out to God, asking him to carry me another day. Every trial deepened my relationship with Jesus, and each time God revived my weakened body after the doctors shared a grim report, my faith expanded to a new level of understanding — a level my limited mind could never explain.
Maybe that’s why he tells me in Proverbs 3:5 to trust in him with all my heart; not to depend on my own understanding. This faithful obedience required me to temper my obsessive-compulsive brain and accept the mystery of his indescribable power. He can’t show up and receive credit if I’m calling all the shots.
By my ninth medical emergency, my weakened will finally told the Lord, “Either take me or use me; I’m yours now — fully. Whether in sickness or in health, I’ll alter my life according to your Spirit’s internal nudges.”
Surrendering all is another beautiful thing.
That simple act of releasing control alleviated a lot of pressure. Praise God for brokenness and his mysteries and little hot-pink sticky-note reminders — for that’s where I found freedom.
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