Day #17

Psalm 55:16-18

People often come to me with what I call an “overwhelming problem load.” Problems have stacked on top of problems, until the stack seems ready to topple over and bury them. 

Part of my job is to sit with them in their suffering. Not many people do this very well. Empathy begins the process of helping. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. 

But part of my job is also to help problem-loaded people transition from what’s called an external locus of control to an internal locus of control. An external locus focuses on all the people, circumstances, and conditions over which we have no control. This includes, by the way, our own past choices. By focusing on these things, we raise our frustration level. 

Switching to an internal locus of control means saying, “What are my options now?” It means focusing on things over which I do have control, the choices I do have. 

Edith Eva Eger lived through the Holocaust. She watched her parents carted off to the gas chambers. A German guard broke her back. She survived a mid-winter death march in a starving condition. She remembers starving, lying in the grass, trying to decide which blade of grass to eat, rejoicing that she still had a choice. In spite of all our circumstances, we still have a choice. 

One thing we can always do, regardless of circumstances, is call upon God. Start the process of regaining your internal locus of control by “going vertical,” crying out to Him. 

Imagine yourself sitting in a room with your problems. They’re hideous, gnarly-looking things, and they crowd around you, squeezing and even smothering you until you feel like you might pass out. Suddenly a door opens up in the roof, letting in a stream of light, and a ladder falls down to you. God calls to you, telling you to climb out, and you spend some time with Him as He helps you identify several of the problems you can change. You make a plan with Him to make those changes, climb back into the room, and begin. 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen. 

“As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me, for there were many against me.” Psalm 55:16-18

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52 thoughts on “Day #17

  1. Mel

    Wow how true that the frustration level rises and rises when we feel that things are out of our control. Learning I have a choice in how I feel, think and act has been such a power tool to realize I have! I’m learning that I can’t control what others do or what they think of me, but what I can control, is my response to how they act and how much and what I choose to think about how they act and think towards me. Praise God for the power to choose!

  2. Simone

    with a al-anon member (although not professionally diagnosed) I was shown thru all my abuse of step fathers and continual moving I was a post traumatic stressed person. Although everything she gave me to read fit me but it was never explained so clearly until I listened the last 2 weeks on your sabbath school . Thank you, and thank you so much for Jesus meditations.

  3. Rachel

    I can’t control the general downward slope that the world is on. I can’t change all the evil that will come as end times draw nearer. Those things worry and scare me. But God can help me take charge of myself–my actions and reactions.

    There are SO many things He’s trying to help me accept. One is that it’s ok that I don’t have control on where this world is headed. The ultimate end will be worth it, and He will be with me and my family through the hard parts (and the easy parts).

  4. Valerie

    One thing that seems to innundate my months and years is constant paperwork due to travelling or now living in another country. Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking when something goes wrong, and much of it is out of my control. But God is always teaching me that He is in control of my life and guiding me at every step. One thing I can change is how I perceive these seemingly anxiety-inducing things and the daily stresses of life whether big or small — I can see them as hurdles that God helps me leap over, as opportunities to grow and as temporary annoyances which will disappear when Jesus takes us home.

    1. Tara

      Yes! I feel the same way about all the legal paperwork living here in Bolivia! Thanks for the insight! Sometimes I just need to change my perspective and see things from a different angle.

  5. Sharon

    So many things I can’t change: the world, the past, other people… I could probably spend an entire year just listing them all. I’ve always thought that because the past cannot be changed, accepting it meant continuing to let it define me. Being raised in a home where my will was broken, I was taught to never say “no” to anyone for any reason, and was expected to follow orders without thinking for myself hasn’t helped any. If you have no choice, you cannot control anything, you can only be controlled. And yet God repeatedly tells us to “choose.” I have struggled with this obvious contradiction for years, never being able to make sense of it. Only in the last few days have things become clearer. Yesterday and today’s meditations, and also Jennifer’s Facebook post from this morning are really starting to make sense. I’m finally starting to see that my ability to choose was not completely taken away as a child. I just need to learn how to use what power of choice I do still have. And I can start by choosing to seek God, to cry out to Him for help.

  6. Sarah

    I grew up surrounded by well-meaning people who believed they had to be up-to-date on all the current events happening everywhere in our world. They followed the news and some pursued conspiracy theories, and they felt it their duty to ensure everyone else was aware and doing the same so nobody missed the signs of the times. I remember clearly when I realized that I didn’t need to be like them. I was struggling with depression from all the negativity and horrible things in the world that I could do nothing about. I decided at that time to focus on Jesus and knowing Him, and that He wouldn’t let me be lost just because I didn’t know what was happening in the news. He’d help me know the things that were important to know in the last days. Now I’m taking a critical reading and thinking class that focuses on all those things again, and I struggle with overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and distress at the condition of our world. But today’s meditation reminded me that I can deliberately choose to focus my thoughts on Jesus and His goodness as soon as I complete an assignment rather than ruminating on all the bad things out of my control. In the same way, I can’t change the fact that I am a survivor of abuse, but I can learn how to deal with my trauma reactions. Also, I cannot change that I live in a dormitory and with a roommate where no one understands or respects other people’s needs to sleep at night. They seem to have the idea that anyone can sleep regardless of noise and light (my roommate can, so why can’t I she wants to know). But, I have worked to soundproof the room from the outside noises (not perfect, but definitely better), and next year I am praying that God will provide a way for me to have my own room so I can sleep early and enough.

  7. Katrina

    Hi Everyone
    I’m really thankful for this one. God is helping me accept things that happened in my childhood. And He is helping me through things that can be changed, even those things that I’m dealing with that happened as a result of my childhood. He is so faithful and good.

  8. Sabrina

    This devotional hit home for me.

    Right now, my workplace is understaffed, and I’ve been stressing a lot about the situation. But instead of stressing over what I can’t control, I’m going to choose to claim God’s promise of peace and to set healthy boundaries on my own time and energy.

  9. Jane

    Well, I can’t change the losses that I’ve experienced in the last few years, but I can choose to go to God for comfort and strength to face the difficulties that come to me. I can also reach out to comfort others who are struggling as well. 2 Cor. 1:3-4

  10. Cheryl

    I cannot change the past, what traumas I have experienced or my choices that have lead me to where I am now. I’m seeking to know Jesus as my Saviour and best friend. I’m seeking positive, healthy change in my thoughts and in my daily life.

    I can choose to claim the promises of God…That He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me.

    I have no control over others. I can’t choose for them. Accepting that is hard.

  11. Amy

    God is teaching me to accept other people, especially my husband and kids as they are. And also to accept myself. Some of us are not neurotypical so there are many opportunities to try to put this in practice. It is a delicate balance of embracing differences while also encouraging development. I am asking God to help me.

  12. Nicky Dube

    I love the focus on choice even in the hardest of circumstances. It is a concept that I share with my clients and that I am still learning to implement daily. Some things that I cannot change and am working on accepting are my past mistakes and some of hard events from my past that have negatively shaped me. When I can and an working on changing, by the grace of God, are now I choose to live life and make choices despite the hard things or mistakes in the past.

  13. Shirley Mann

    I can’t change my past responses to events or people that I liked or disliked. Sometimes as I look back, I am embarrassed by things I said or did. I believe that God has been helping me be more mindful about my responses so that I do not hurt other people by what I do or say.

  14. cree

    What an enlightening & convicting story that was —- blades of grass, wow. Perspective can really be powerful! I don’t thank God enough for the fact that I have options; and opportunities to be proactive about trying circumstances. I choose to accept my circumstances & follow God’s leading in my journey to healing and wholeness—-rather than allowing pain to consume me / be an obstacle to fulfilling His will for my life. 🤍

  15. Nowelle

    I can’t change myself, and God is helping me to accept that.
    I can change what, or who, I seek. “Seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” I can choose to seek God daily, a closer walk with Him. I can set my mind on eternal things, and by beholding, I may become changed.
    Praise the Lord.

  16. Erin D

    I’m learning to accept my physical limitations. I’m not able to do things I once could, but that doesn’t make me less valuable as a person to God. I’m working on changing how I communicate and react to others and not letting other people define my reality. Who I am in Christ should be the only thing that defines me, trying to hold onto His opinion of me and not everyone else’s.

    1. Megan

      Amen. We’re human beings, not human doings. Accepting limitations is so tough, I’m with you there. Yet, Christ’s strength shows up where our strength fails, when we pray. Not necessarily physically, of course, but inner strength. 🙏🏼🌻

      1. Erin D

        Yes exactly! I claim this promise in my prayers frequently!
        “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
        ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:13‬
        Prayers for strength for you also Megan!

  17. Karen

    I don’t have control over: my children’s choices
    I do have control over: I simply don’t have to live in despair over my children’s choices, I can live walking in the abundance of God’s grace. God is empowering me to focus on His love, plan and purpose for my life. 
    This battle of switching my focus from what I don’t have control over to what I Do have control over is daily. This battle comes with victories and failures as I learn to use God’s powerful, living Word to grow in His grace. Wishing all of us victories in putting God as the locus of control in our lives.

  18. Megan

    Very little in my life so far has gone according to ‘the script’. I’m in my mid-thirties, with no career, no husband, and no family of my own. Chronic illness seemed to rule out the options while I was in my 20s. God is helping me accept that there’s more to life than following the script. Maybe what I’ll find will be better than what I thought would have been good. Praying for the courage to continue doing the small and necessary things, to believe the future can be good, and to make any needed changes.

    1. Erin D

      I can relate to much of what you have posted here Megan. I’m also mid thirties and have suffered chronic pain and illness most of my life. I’m unable to work also and will never be bale to have children. It is a constant struggle to try to not define yourself by what you thought would be or what others expect you to be. What has helped me the most is seeing my situation as that God wanted to have some extra special time with me. He wants me fully dependent on Him and wants to teach me what His plan is for my life. If I were so busy with work and kids and whatever else.. would I be to distracted to hear God calling me to Him. Hope this can help in some way.

      1. Megan

        Thanks for sharing, Erin. I appreciate it… makes me feel a little less alone. That’s a good point; the upside of not having a ‘normal’ life is having plenty of time to reflect on what God might be doing (or wanting to do) in our respective situations.

  19. Simone

    Lots of adhd children on my bus. I put Christian music on my radio . We are not allowed to speak about God, but we have the choice of radio stations being played.

  20. Daniel Parsons

    Today I’d like you to share with us two things: Things in your life you cannot change, that God is helping you accept, and things you can change, that God is empowering you to do something about. 

    I have been in recovery for 27 years from some serious addiction problems. I cannot go back and change some very bad decisions that I made in my illness.

    God is helping me accept the past and nudge me into focusing on the present. By living one day at a time, I am able to be the Godly husband my wife deserves. I am able to be the church member that looks at how I can serve and not be served. Yes, God is empowering me with living a healthy sane life now.

  21. Vanessa

    Things I cannot change and God is helping me to accept? My family’s past and the choices that were made (before I came to be). Things I can change that God is empowering me to do something about? Generational tendencies.

  22. Tara

    I wear many hats at the boarding school where I live andwork. Most days I feel as though I barely get anything scratched off my to-do list while 50 new things are added. I often feel overwhelmed, but this meditation is an awesome reminder that I can only do what I can do. I need not be despondent. I can take time to be with God every day. I can have time with family. And the other stuff can be chipped away at each day as I am able and God can help me recognize what should be priority.

  23. Nancy Crosby

    This meditation was timely… seems like i am a day behind everyone but Gods timing is just right.. I cannot change the years I spent overworked and fearful. But today I can choose to set boundaries (struggling to do this) and I can choose to believe God’s promises to not fear because he is with me. Thank you Jen for these inspiring messages!

  24. Ericka

    i cant change my husband or my kids :O
    i can change my angry reactions at times, my fear of starting hard conversations with any of them, and my increasing my positive interactions with them overall

  25. A J

    Today I’d like you to share with us two things: Things in your life you cannot change, that God is helping you accept, and things you can change, that God is empowering you to do something about.

    I will apply this question direction to today as I struggle with disappointment.
    I cannot control the tenant that moved out of my house and damaged my personal property stored there, the tenant who left bear cans in the yard, and the tenants friends and family who broke walls, doors and windows. I cannot control that the tenant refuses to return my calls and show up to review the damages and clear the remainder of their things.

    I pray today to accept what I cannot change, to embrace my disappointment and acknowledge that it is real, to trust that God will work out this stressful situation out in His time and HIs was and give me the courage to change what I still can.


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