In a podcast, author Michael Lewis explains the extra coaching he arranged for his daughter who wanted to be a better high school softball player. But the coaching wasn’t about her technique, it was about her mind.
She was great in practice. But during games, she said, “I am hard on myself. I don’t want to let my teammates and coaches down.” The thought of a college coach watching caused further distraction, as she hoped for a scholarship. Her attention was on future outcomes beyond her control. Her coach helped her learn to focus on what she could do in the present moment.
We learn to judge ourselves based on outcomes. We anticipate the emotional responses of joy, satisfaction, and acceptance. But those can be the seduction of the siren’s song. The problem is that so many of the outcomes in life are beyond our control. So we soldier on and live with the disappointment, fear, and anxiety that nag us. Certainly some things are within our control, but most worries are about things that are not.
You have another option. You can learn to focus on what matters, do what is right, and trust God with the outcome. That is a Biblical theme. Take Jeremiah. God told him, “I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” But lest Jeremiah’s opinion of himself swell, God said, “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you.” Yet Jeremiah was to keep speaking. That was what mattered. It was all he could control. The results were beyond Jeremiah. (Jer. 1:5, 7:27)
You can hear this theme in Paul’s, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10), and Peter’s, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). They understood that living life God’s way is what matters, and that was within their control. Pastor John MacArthur developed this theme in his blog about his church’s decision to defy the state government. Whether or not the church should meet during the pandemic isn’t the point. This is: Believing the state cannot regulate worship, they chose their course of action and left the results in God’s hands.
More from the prophet: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord…for he will be like a tree planted by the water. (He) will not fear when the heat comes…nor cease to yield fruit” (Jer. 17:5-8). The heat may come from personal circumstances, the COVID pandemic, or national politics. Regardless, it is liberating to trust God with things beyond your control. Even if outcomes are not what you want, you can trust God to strengthen and nourish you in the midst of it. When the heat comes, your life bears fruit because your roots are by the stream of living water.