STM: It’s all about Control…

STM: It’s all about Control…

… more specifically, being prepared to lose some.

If you’ve been on the blog at all recently, you’ll have seen my #3GoodThings posts and know that I’ve been reading The Happiness Advantage of late.

The author, Shawn Achor, dedicates an entire chapter to the notion that the ability to control our environment (more importantly, the impression that we control it), is a major factor in both cultivating happiness and personal success.

If you know anything about missions…
you’ll know that control is one of the things
of which you give up a good measure.

We Yield Control…

It may be in the short-term or the long-term, but to varying degrees, we yield control of:

our educational aspirations (our plans or others’ plans for us)
our career path (missions may or may not be a long-term calling)
our relationships (friends and family don’t follow you to the field)
our finances (current earning potential / ability to save for the future)

All of the above are areas of control that society in general (even fellow Christians) expect us to be in control of. It’s ingrained in us from a young age that “adulting” involves thinking about and having some sort of a plan for these things

So before you even get to the field… you have to have wrestled with these things.

Then We Yield More Control…

When you get to the field, missions can involve losing even more control.

responsibilities (your job description can change unexpectedly)
donor attrition (supporters sometimes redirect support elsewhere)
health challenges (this doesn’t affect missionaries more than people at home, but it can be felt more accutely when living “away from home”.
political climate-change (political change in your country can impact your freedoms or ministry)

Conventional wisdom (and Achor’s book) says that what could be a gradual accumulation of small stresses or losses of control can lead to a lack of happiness, satisfaction and even overall performance.

Indeed, it goes further than that. He quotes one study where researchers concluded that “feeling a lack of control over pressure at work is as great a risk factor for heart disease as high blood pressure.” (p.131)

Lack of control can be experienced as a form of acute or prolonged stress that can, in turn, have health implications (whether physical health or mental health).

Ouch! Are missionaries (short-term or long-term) setting ourselves up for unnecessary stress and even health issues?

(Undoubtedly, the shorter the term, the less such dramatic implications are likely)

The Solution?

Achor offers up a creative analogy for dealing with this real or perceived loss of control and I plan to apply it to our situation a bit more on a go forward basis. But over and above his methods, and others, we have a few other things to fall back on:

  1. The knowledge that even when were not in control… we know who is. When the disciples feared for their life, as the squall buffeted their boat, Jesus had only to speak a word to the storm and a complete calm was renewed. In the meantime, however, he revealed the disciples’ lack of faith. (Matthew 8)
  2. Supernatural and unseen help: Elisha’s servant arose one morning to see what looked like an impossible situation. The army of King Aram had surrounded the city. There was no escape. What he didn’t see, however, until the Lord opened his eyes, was that the hills all around were filled with horses and chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6)
  3. The Holy Ghost: When we find ourselves in a“situation” and don’t know how to proceed, how to respond, how to react or move forward, Luke 12 reminds us that the Holy Ghost will teach us what to say or at the very least, will remind you what Jesus already said (John 14.26).
  4. Our security is not in the same things as the world esteems secure. While it’s important to plan and prepare as best we can, ultimately, our security is neither in the plans nor the preparations. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20.7)
  5. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46.1)

When the anxiety associated with a loss of control comes knocking at your door, remember who you serve and who called you to missions in the first place. He is faithful and is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all you can ask or think.

A Little Loss is OK

Be it a call to missions or simply, a call to become a Christian or a call to live as a Christian in a secular environment… all involve being willing to yield control. All involve giving our preferences, priorities and propensities at least, a second thought. Sometimes, they involve much more.

Jesus doesn’t try to hide it. He tells us that this will be part of living for him.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 16.24-25)

It’s not whether we’ll lose some control, but how we’ll respond to that loss that either reveals our reliance on ourselves, on others or on Him.

– Plan… yes
– Prepare… yes
– But when things seem beyond our reach… let faith kick in

God bless you as you plan, prepare and grow in faith,
in a context of missions.

Want to read more on STM?
my book is
Available on Amazon.

One response

  1. the control issue is very real-I see what it does to someone to try to control every detail of life and of course this never works. hen they are disappointed and feel guilty- Maybe I practiced some of this too-but I gave up years ago and it was a beautiful thing to let God-and stop trying to “help Him” haha!

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