Few people give a great deal of thought to who or what is controlling their lives. I believe when we are born, we begin trying to build the kingdom of self, in which we control our world. We find that we cannot, and we begin to set out on other courses of action which promise to give us enough space to move around in our world. In those places where we compromise with the world around us, we find sources of stress that pursue us unmercifully.

There are several common sources of initiative we take unto ourselves with no intent of doing so. It just happens. We like positive attention in our lives and so we begin to try to please people. I recall vividly my significant adults screaming at me, "Don't do that! What will people think?" Eventually two things were engraved in my mind. First, I had to please people to get the attention I wanted. Second, I had better take that seriously.

The result was that I gave people initiative in my life. That doesn't mean they told me what to do. They were simply there. I decided what I had to do to get a minimum amount of positive response from them. Each group was different, and each one demanded time and attention. My perception of their desire for me, was the source of a lot of the initiative in my life.

There were also the groups of people who did not meet my standards. When they were wrong, I would get angry, and stay angry. I would react to the people and I would continue in that reaction. While they were not aware of their power over me, to some extent they held the initiative in my life. In any relationship where I reacted, and failed to forgive, I was not in control. It is the circumstances some call codependency today. I can't live with them and I can't live without them. It is the basis for many marriages in today's world.

There are other fears that enter into the initiatives in our lives. Fear of lacking the basic necessities of life - food, clothing, shelter and love. I am not sure that we have not let love get lost in our quest for the things needed to keep the body comfortable and healthy. These fears contribute to the stress levels that people face in the world today.

Problems and Solutions

There is a difference between an answer and a solution. An answer may be correct, but it does not become a solution until it becomes integrated into our life. I know that God is in my world and He loves me. That is an answer. It will only be a solution when I begin to make decisions based on that answer.

The normal reaction that we find in the world is to try to grasp and wield the initiative in our own lives. We will try to control the situations. We will please the people, get rid of our enemies, and find a secure place to work and live. It is on our shoulders, or on the shoulders of the government under which I live, to make those arrangements. Problem one is that we cannot control absolutely. The best we can do is a bit of the control that we need.

We don't know how to please all of the other people we feel the need to please. We cannot even escape from enemies who live, sometimes in our own households. We are trapped. In that trap we develop a number of methods of dealing with the things we have to face.

The use of some anesthetic which makes us feel that we are in good shape, drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or good works are the common ones we use. They seem to cover our pain while not relieving the stress that eventually will destroy our bodies as well as our souls.

There is perhaps another way in which we might direct our search. We might follow Jesus' directions.

Seek First the Kingdom of God

If we are truly interested in living in the Kingdom of God, there are some things that we must see clearly. It is a Kingdom, and not a democracy. God rules. He holds the initiative in the life of every person in the Kingdom. It is not a matter of making you do what you don't will to do. It is a matter of enabling you to do what you were created to do.

Jesus was saying that we need to be in touch with the Author of creation if we are to find our place in it. We seek the Kingdom by seeking the King through prayer and study. We can also seek to turn over the initiative in our lives to Him who knows who we are and why we are here.

When I am willing and able to turn over the control of my life to God, I am no longer nurturing the stress that I have in my life. I am turning loose the ends of the strings that are the cause of the stress. I have a decision to make. Do I try to make my own system work in my life? Do I decide to trust God and allow Him to make the decisions and direct the action around my world, thus making it His Kingdom?

That will demand that I quit seeking to please people by my words and actions, and set myself to please God. He is easy to please. He is pleased by the simple fact that I decide I will to please Him. He is so pleased that He offers me grace to get about His business of becoming all that He created me to become.

If I am to deal with those whom I am trying to please in terms of God's love in the Kingdom, I must begin to love them instead of trying to manipulate them in some way to make them love me. I must accept them as they are, and do all that I can to enable them to come to know God, that He might be for them a loving Father.

If I am to deal with my enemies, I must do the same. I have an idea that is why Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who despitefully use you. I must forgive to set me free from them. I am not to judge them. If I judge I tie myself to the person I judge, and shut myself out of the judgment of God that is able to cleanse me, and recreate me.

I must come to the place of relinquishing the concerns I have about food and clothing. When I seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all of these things will be provided for me. It might not be what I would like, but it will be what is for my own best interest.

God is Practical

What most people do not stop to consider is that the Author of the Universe is practical. He knows more about the creation than the scientists who devote their lives to study it. He knows its purpose as well as our purpose within it. Which of us would pretend to know the purposes of all of the persons in the creation?

We are not seeking to become far out fanatics of some religion that has only to do with other worlds. We worship the One who knows, and who is present with us to reveal to us all we need to know to walk with Him in His will in His creation. I can think of no other way to know why I was created or what I am here to accomplish under His direction, by His grace.

If I am to find the integrity that it takes to remove the stress in my life that threatens to destroy me, I will have to find it by giving up the initiative for my life and placing it in His hands. I will seek to please Him, and allow Him to worry about pleasing others. I will be willing to forgive others so I will not have to carry them around on my back.

I will trust Him with my life and trust Him to meet my needs. I will seek Him with all of my heart and soul and mind that I might enter into the intimacy He intends to share with me, that one day I might know Him even as I am known.

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