"What can I do?"
"There's nothing that I can do in this situation."
"I don't have control over what's happening."
How often do we find ourselves and others saying such things? How often do these reflect our helplessness in situations where our choice is taken away from us? It seems like there is nothing which can be done at times. Perhaps that's true. There are many circumstances in this world that we are not in control of.
We can't control the weather so that it is sunny every time we do our laundry. We can't control what our boss and colleagues say to us when at work each day. We can't control how others drive on the road and behave.
However, in each and every situation, there is always something we are in control of. No matter the circumstances surrounding us, we are always in control of our choice. We always have a choice—the choice to choose how we respond—which can never be taken away from us.
God gives us a choice
Right from the beginning of creation, God gave mankind the gift of choice. Although He set out rules to be followed in the Garden of Eden the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, chose not to obey what God had told them.
God didn't make machines void of free will. He made humans in His likeness, having the ability to make decisions. Our ability to choose and decide things reflects that we have been made in the image of God—He is the ultimate decision-maker. God gives us the freedom to choose so we can freely choose His good plans.
God, our Father
As parents, we always want the best for our children. We love for our children to obey us because we know it will be good for them. But, unless obedience is willing and from the heart, we know it usually won't last. It's just not the same if our children are reluctant and don't choose to be obedient.
This is so with God our Father too. Our choices are meaningless unless we choose to obey Him and to walk in His good plans for us. This is the beauty of choice—knowing we could have chosen otherwise yet doing the right thing.
Who says we don't have a choice?
Decision-making has been an innate part of us from the beginning till now yet often we still feel as if we don't have a choice. If God has given us choices, why do we think we don't have any? Because Satan deceives us into believing we don't have a choice. We forget that we were made in God's image, being transformed to be like Him.
One of the easiest ways for Satan to strip us of our power of decision-making in this life is to trick us into believing this lie. We begin to think, "It's not as if I can change anything. I'm not God." The truth is we are not God, but we are His children, co-heirs with Jesus when we trust Him. Thus we bear His image, having wisdom and self-control to make great choices in our lives.
Our enemy aims to distort the truth so we never realise our full potential as children of the Almighty God. When we believe we are robbed of a choice, we become essentially paralysed in our situation—deprived of making both right and wrong choices. While we worry a lot about what we deem a wrong choice, the enemy, on the other hand, clearly understands that God uses whatever choice we make to benefit us. Romans chapter 8, verse 28 says: "for those who love God all things work together for good."
Knowing what we can choose
We often feel we aren't in total control of ourselves as we automatically react to outward pressures around us. Many of these external forces are beyond our control. At other times we make a big fuss over things we can't change, like nature and other people, while failing to see we do have choices.
I love the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, especially the first part:
"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."
Choosing our responses
When we know what can be changed and what can't, we are able to refocus our attention. This allows us to spend more time predetermining the things we can change—namely our responses towards the things we cannot change.
William Shakespeare wrote in the play Henry V, "All things are ready, if our mind be so."
I can't stop employers from rejecting my job application, but I can decide beforehand to thank God for closing the wrong doors and granting me more experience with each failure. I can't prevent my child from behaving badly, but I can determine to remain calm and not raise my voice every time it happens.
We can't avoid negative people and situations in this world but we don't have to fret over these uncontrollable events either.
Instead we can choose how we respond to them. Start determining your responses before things happen and choose to respond positively with faith through it all. Choose today to stop focusing on the unchangeable but to start preparing to make better choices in every circumstance. I have a choice, so do you.
Esther Koh is a primary school teacher living in Wellington with her husband and two sons. She loves people and has a passion for helping others find their purpose for living.
Esther Koh’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/esther-koh.html