How To Be At Peace With Things You Can’t Control

Are you like me? Do you spend way too much time worrying about things you can’t control and in the process lose peace of mind?

My mental framework used to be negative thoughts and worst-case scenarios. I missed the present moment worrying about family members, natural disasters, and what if bad happens.

The possible “what-ifs” were a big part of my thinking. I pushed so hard to be in control of things you can’t control. Praise God I don’t live there anymore. 

Things you can’t control 

Are you spending way too much energy trying to manipulate things you can’t control? Please know that I am not pointing fingers. I used to be right there with you. 

It is important to come to grips with the many external factors that are part of life but can cause us needless suffering. 

Don’t get me wrong. We do experience real pain and heartache. But much of our mental and emotional anguish is of our own making. Let’s try to eliminate that by taking a look at a list of the things that we can not control: 

  • The past
  • The future
  • Other human beings
  • Our body type
  • Mother nature

This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are general categories that have a multitude of things that fall under them.

All of our past experiences are non-negotiable. We can’t change any of it. So what is included in our past?

  • Where we were born and who our parents are
  • Our ethnic background
  • Our upbringing 
  • Our mistakes and failures and the consequences of them

Some of us had wonderful parents, but many did not. The bad things that happened can’t be erased. They color who we are. But they don’t have to be our identity. 

Some people are deeply troubled by their ethnic background and wish it was different. This too does not have to prevent us from being who God created us to be. 

What we were taught as children about life often has to be re-learned. Our current situation is not our past, but many still live as if they are the helpless child caught in a bad situation. 

Sometimes our mistakes and failures are the hardest things to come to grips with. The shame and guilt can prevent us from being the best version of ourselves. 

We can influence the future by the choices we make, but there are many difficult situations that pop up that we can’t even anticipate, let alone control. 

Change is a natural part of life. Just about the time we get comfy and think life is wonderful, something comes along to rock our boat and shake us out of our comfort zone. 

This is a really hard one, especially if you have family members that you want to control.

We can influence our children while they are young, but eventually, they will make their own choices and live the way they want, regardless of what we want or prefer. 

Looking beyond family members, while we want other people to think we are awesome, the truth is we have little control over people’s perception of us. True, we can influence it to a degree by being kind, caring, compassionate, and honest.

But let’s face it. Some people are not going to like us regardless of how we act. As a recovering people pleaser, I have learned that this is one of the things you can’t control. 

Our body type is determined by the DNA that was given to us at conception.

We can do some things to enhance it, like hair implants, botox injections, tattooed eyebrows, changing our hair color with chemicals, and plastic surgery.

But the basic genetics, the shape of our body, and our basic metabolism are already set. It is a waste of time stressing about this. 

I often wondered where the best place was to live to avoid natural disasters. It turns out there is no place on earth completely safe from natural disasters.

I decided that I would prefer hurricanes over wildfires, tornados, volcanos, earthquakes, and other catastrophic events. At least with hurricanes, you have some time to prepare.

But I had to face it, I could still be vulnerable to feelings of helplessness if the hurricane and flooding were bad enough. So trying to find the perfect place to live is a myth. 

What is the one thing you can always control?

It’s time for a fresh perspective. And when we use it to our advantage, we can get through all kinds of challenging situations with peace of mind.

Isn’t that why we try so hard to control external factors? We think it will bring peace, or it will eliminate a feeling of helplessness.

So what is this fresh perspective? 

I am so glad you asked. The one thing we always can control is our thoughts, which in turn affect our attitudes and feelings. 

Photo of a woman stressing about things she can't control and the Bible verse from Proverbs 23:7 which says that what we think will make us or break us. We become what we think.
Proverbs 23:7, one of the Bible verses about things we can’t control

The Bible says that we become what we think (Proverbs 23:7). It also says that when we think a certain way, it brings peace. Ah, peace is so needed in our lives. 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 ESV

This way of thinking will erase our cognitive distortions about all kinds of things. 

Related: Are your thoughts holding you captive? 

How to accept things you can’t control

While science has come up with many activities to help us deal with the things we can’t control, they are only a partial solution. Taking a deep breath will help reduce a feeling of stress, but as soon as our minds return to the old ways of thinking, the feelings of stress return.

 Am I saying forget about diaphragmatic breathing? Not at all. By all means, use these techniques. They just aren’t complete.    

Old patterns and habits are hard to break. Sometimes it feels like it is easier to stay with a familiar pattern of life rather than learn something new, even if the familiar causes psychological pain. 

Fortunately (or unfortunately – depending on your mindset), stressful situations often force us to consider something new. Pain is a good thing. It signals a need for positive change. 

When we look at Scripture, we see that painful situations are meant to drive people back to God, the one who understands and cares more than we can possibly comprehend. 

  • Infertility caused women to pray earnestly to God (1)
  • Being down to her last last penny caused a mother to be open to a prophet and his direction (2)
  • Being riddled with pain and more loss than most of us have ever experienced caused a man to find his solace in God (3)
  • Being struck blind by a bright beam of light turned a malicious hater of Christians into one who trusted God (4)
  • Being sold into slavery and being falsely accused of rape made one man allow God to prepare him for future important responsibilities (5)
  • Being an outcast made a woman open to the message Jesus had for her (6)

These are just a few examples of the good that can come from not being in control. Why? Because God is working in all of those situations. 

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared  for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Photo of a woman stressed out over things she can't control, and Bible verses from 1 Corinthians 2:9, and Jeremiah 29:11.
Thoughts from 1 Corinthians 2:9 and Jeremiah 29:11, part of the Bible verses about things you can’t control.

We can trust our not-so-perfect past to a God who rewrites stories. 

We can trust an unknown future to a God who has good plans for us. 

We can trust God even with a catastrophic outcome because Jesus is praying for our spiritual well-being, He will never leave us, and we have a future in heaven if we love God and cherish His ways. 

A Bible reading plan to help accept things you can’t control

Understanding God’s plans for us helps us accept the things we can not change. The Apostle Paul pleaded with God to have some of his circumstances changed, to no avail. God showed him that our weakness is not a liability.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 ESV

God’s super plus our natural result in mighty things for the kingdom of God.

This Bible reading plan will take you on a 31-day journey through Scriptures that deal with our weaknesses and the things we can’t control. It is a free download so I hope you will take advantage of it. Here is the link.

Photo of the Bible reading plan "God's strength for my weakness", with Scriptures about how to accept things you can't control.
A Bible reading plan that helps shift our focus from
things you can’t control to trusting God

You will also receive with this Bible reading plan, 5 lessons learned, 5 practical applications, and a notes page.

You might also like to read: 

References:

  1. Hannah and Elizabeth, to mention a few
  2. The widow of Zaraphath
  3. Job
  4. The Apostle Paul
  5. Joseph
  6. The woman at the well

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