I recently heard about a doctor who shared his most frustrating diagnosis. Idiopathic. He said, “It means the doctor is an idiot and doesn’t know what’s wrong.” The definition of idiopathic is any condition that arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown.
Idiopathic. As much as modern medicine knows about the human body, there are still things we don’t know. And even the things we do know often render us powerless to control them.
The point is that we have less control of our lives than we'd like to admit. And we hate it.
As modern Americans, we like being in control. We plan, we choose, we make, we do. For the most part, we believe we’re in charge of our lives.
But time and experience tell us that so much of life is idiopathic. We can’t explain it or control it. It’s beyond the limits of our knowledge, ability, and energy. A broken relationship. Cancer. A flood. A freak accident. The slow lines of aging around our eyes. We can’t control it.
Consider the following:
Traffic: You can (for the most part) control how you drive. But you can’t control the other idiots on the road.
Body: We used to get injured only when playing tackle football on the playground. But as we age, we pull a muscle just getting out of bed. Our bodies change and we can’t control it.
Loved Ones: We can’t control people we love the most. We want them to read our mind. Or do what we want them to do. But they don’t. We can’t control the people closest to us.
Crisis: As we’ve seen recently, we can’t control a terror organization that exists halfway around the world. Even with the most sophisticated and advanced military force in the world, we cannot completely stop dreaded acts of terror. We can’t even stop fellow citizens from such acts, as we’ve seen in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino, or Columbine, Newtown, and Charleston.
We have less control than we think. In the face of uncontrollable forces, I’d like you to be inspired by Mary, the mother of Jesus. She demonstrated a unique posture in the face of helplessness.
Consider the fact that Mary had no control.
Precisely when she had no control, Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
I am shamed by the humble faith of a teenage girl from Palestine. No controlling, only trusting. No manipulating or scheming or negotiating, only surrender.
The Bible doesn’t describe Mary’s posture, but I wonder if she spoke these words with a bowed head. Do you know why we bow our heads when we pray? It’s a posture of surrender. It was a way in which a slave or captive would submit to a lord or an authority. Exposing your neck meant you were open to beating or beheading. I imagine Mary with a bowed head, submitting what little control she had as she said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
This is the posture of hope and faith. You bow your head and surrender control. A bowed head is a risky position . . . unless you trust the One you are bowing to.
Gabriel gave Mary reason to trust him. He said, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). God had a track record - a resume, so to speak - of doing impossible things.
A nation of slaves walked through water to freedom.
A boy conquered a giant.
An elderly and barren woman named Elizabeth had a baby.
A virgin conception.
A rustic manger became a royal crown.
A bloody cross became a spectacular symbol of victory. Nothing is impossible with God.
Homework for this week:
Take a blank piece of paper. Write down all the things you can’t control. Fill it up. Use two pages if necessary. Kneel. Bow your head. And then pray:
“I give up control. I hope in you. Let it be to me according to your word.”