We recently took a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to see the Boston Celtics face off against the Golden State Warriors in the TD Garden in the heart of downtown Boston. This was easily one of my favorite experiences. As an ardent NBA fan, and Golden State hater, it was a joy to join the virulent Celtic-fanbase in throwing jeers at the visiting Warriors players. The weekend trip was something of a “baby-moon” for the wife and I, too (with our second due at the end of April). Besides taking in the spectacle of a nationally televised NBA game, we walked the frigid streets of Boston and took in the history of the city. We visited the Boston Tea Party Museum and were educated on all the events that led up to the infamous “tea party” wherein hundreds of crates of British tea were bitterly tossed into the harbor. As a somewhat of a history enthusiast, I was intrigued by the display and was pleasantly surprised by what was actually involved with this “tea party.” (Seriously, it was a lot more work than just tossing tea bags over the side of a boat.)
We didn’t really plan our trip that well though, because after the game and getting back to our hotel extremely late, we had to wake up at 4 AM to catch an Uber to the Boston airport. Needless to say, that part of the trip wasn’t very fun. And to make matters worse, in the scramble of late-sleeping and early-rising and Uber-haling, we lost $50. Now, $50 might not seem like that much of a loss — to others that is an incredible amount — but the loss was compounded by a case of the absolute worst timing imaginable. Not that there ever would be a “good time” to lose $50, but coming to this dreaded realization in the midst of “one of those days” in which your two-year-old cries about everything but doesn’t want anything you offer her, leading to an exasperated wife and a less than tolerable toddler . . . on top of getting the beloved maintenance report from the service shop on some critical repairs that needed to be done on my vehicle. I nearly fainted when I not only heard what needed fixing but what it would cost. In the midst of all that, my wife and I could find no other recourse other than to throw up our arms in surrender to the fate of the day. If that’s how it was going to be, then fine, whatever. “We give up.” Let’s just get this day over with and start over tomorrow, shall we?
But upon further reflection on this “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” I thought to myself, There’s nothing ‘good’ that comes from my hands, my abilities, my competency. Indeed, everything that’s good comes from outside of me, from Another, from the Source of all that is good and beautiful. “Every good and perfect gift,” writes James, “is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” (Jas 1:17) The day of terrible news and lost things might’ve been a chance conglomeration of bad luck, but it’s also indicative what happens when I take my life in my own hands. When I tightly grip the course of my days and times, what results is never something good. Rather, my efforts amount to nothing more than a man furiously trying to grasp water or wind in his hands. So writes the beloved Charles Spurgeon:
A man might as well hope to hold the north wind in the palm of his hand as expect to control, by his own strength, those boisterous powers which exist within his fallen nature.1
It’s in these little things where I find God speaking most loudly and clearly, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10) Perhaps it’s through altering the course of your career or personal life, or it’s through losing $50 or spilling milk, whatever the scenario, God’s desirous of you coming to the end of yourself in the realization that you control nothing. All that I am and do is bound up in Christ’s sovereignty and sufficiency. I testify along with the psalmist that the “course of my life” is in the powerful, providential hands of my Father. (Ps 31:15) I feel this experientially.
God is certainly expunging me from all reliance on myself. I feel like Tom Hanks in Castaway where he laments after another failed suicide attempt that he can’t even die on his own terms — similarly, I can’t even control my life on my own terms. That’s how not in control I am. And I’m learning to be okay with that. Because the gospel tells me what is categorically true: That in the midst of my failure to control anything is my God’s incontrovertible control over everything.
I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God but me. I will strengthen you, though you do not know me, so that all may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is no one but me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I am the Lord, who does all these things. (Is 45:5–7)
Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace: The Infinite Love of God (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1981), 36.