Faith Matters: When your problems feel overwhelming, lift up your eyes and behold God

Once in a while, I worry about things that I have no control over.

I’m reminded that I have no control over the safety of my kids when they pull out of the driveway. I have no control over the refrigerator that recently broke. And I have no control over the health of my aging parents who live 900 miles away.

The list of things that I can’t control only seems to grow and with it my anxieties. I don’t like it. No one likes it. We don’t want more things to feel anxious about. We want less. We’re just not sure how to make that happen.

Anxiety is the fastest-growing and most commonly identified mental illness in the U.S., affecting nearly 40 million Americans. One study says the reported anxiety of children today is the same as that reported by adult psychiatric patients in the 1950’s.

The situation isn’t improving — it’s only getting worse.

From the outside, it looks like we are powerless to its grip and always forced to succumb to its control. We spend hours awake at night unable to control the what if scenarios running through our mind.

That is, until we’re reminded of how big God is.

Somehow in the midst of all this daily hand wringing, we can be graciously reminded that our Creator has written a story of history that we can’t mess up.

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Dr. J. Phillip Hamm is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Palmetto.

We’re reminded He takes the details of our mistakes and victories, and in His sovereignty, somehow uses them to accomplish His purposes.

We’re reminded that we don’t have to be in control of these things.

And we’re reminded they will turn out far better when we stop trying.

Psalm 127:2 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to his beloved sleep.”

Notice how many times the word “vain” is used to describe our efforts. Without God, we are just spinning our wheels, staying busy accomplishing little and exhausting ourselves. The peace we are looking for is elusive when we are the ones trying to control it.

At the end of the day, my kids return safely home, the refrigerator is keeping our food cold again and my parents are doing OK.

No matter how much I worry or how anxious I get, I have no power to change any of those things. The peace you and I are looking for doesn’t come from getting more control over our circumstances.

In fact, scripture might argue the opposite. Peace comes from pursuing less control and trusting the One who controls it all.

Dr. J. Phillip Hamm is the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Palmetto. Reach the church at 941-722-7795 or visit Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.

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