Dwight Eisenhower, former U.S. president and supreme Allied commander in Europe during World War II, was quoted by Richard Nixon in Six Crises as saying, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” He said this because during the heat of battle, whether political or military, events never seemed to unfold the way the plans anticipated. However, the planning itself stimulated thought so that leaders could make adjustments to meet fast-changing and challenging circumstances as the battles raged. In this way, events did not become completely out of control.
Life is difficult and at times seems unfair. Events almost never turn out exactly as planned, yet a major reason we plan is to avoid the disquieting stress of things beyond our control. It is certainly understandable why we all want tranquility. But the reality of man’s history is that that tranquility is rare, whether between nations, families, individuals and at times even within ourselves. We may be quite intent on planning and striving for security within the framework of our “world,” but people and events beyond our control constantly intrude and sometimes seriously disrupt our desired order.
It is astounding to contemplate how many things that form and shape our “world” are truly completely beyond our control. It begins before we are born. We have no control over who our parents are or when or where we are born. Our parents pass on to us a set of genes that determines what we look like. Will we be male or female, tall or short? Will our skin and hair be that of the majority or that of a persecuted minority? Will we be born physically or mentally handicapped? Will we be born in a free land with many opportunities for education and wealth or will we have to endure a harsh, rock-scrabble existence? All of us are dealt a hand at birth, and God expects us to play that hand to the best of our ability.
Yet circumstances of birth and genetics are merely the beginning of things beyond our control. What kind of parents gave us the gift of life? Were they kind, generous and farsighted in preparing us to live in this world? Were they abusive or did they fill our lives with loving attention, disciplining us when needed to help form our character? Did they guide our education while gently prodding us to do our best? Did they instill strong moral values or did they just allow us to grow up like an unneeded appendage that disturbed their plans for life? A great deal of everybody’s life is totally beyond his control. Even long after birth, we still have no control over major tranquility destroyers. We have no control over whether our nation goes to war or the stock market crashes. What can anyone do about weather that produces a drought or a sudden flood? Can we halt a terrifying, life-changing earthquake that can shatter the lives of thousands of people without even a rumble of warning? Even in the intimacy of personal relationships, our control over the attitudes and behavior of others is minimal. How many of us have actually been successful in getting someone to change or to quit an addiction? If an addict is in denial, despite impassioned appeals, they will rarely honestly face the truth of their addiction until they hit bottom and bounce around a few times.
For Christians, the peace that Jesus offers comes only as the result of God’s calling by His Spirit through which He works in and through us to bring us into loving submission to the way of peace. That is the way of daily talking and walking with God, coming to know intimately His faithful, loving use of His wisdom and power to complete His glorious purpose in our lives. It produces a peace that passes all understanding because then everything is under perfect control (Romans 8:28-30).
“The secret to achieving inner peace lies in understanding our inner core values – those things in our lives that are most important to us-and then seeing that they are reflected in the daily events of our lives.” — Hyrum W. Smith
“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the world.” ~Marcus Aurelius