My 93 year old father-in-law was recently hospitalized for a number of serious health issues. The very attentive nurses thought it best to put him in arm restraints so that he could’t inadvertently knock off his life sustaining oxygen mask or rip out his IV due to his agitated state or while he was sleeping. Rather than accepting that the restraints had been put on his arms for his good—to protect him from removing the life-saving measures they’d put in place— he was extremely upset that he’d lost control of his arms. Below are just a few of the endless questions he asked my husband and I as we sat by his bedside:
“What happens if I need to get up?” We responded, “Dad, you can’t go anywhere, and you don’t have the energy to get out of bed even if there was someplace for you to go.”
“What about going to the bathroom?” he queried. We answered him, “You have a catheter so there’s no need for you to get up for that.”
“Where’s my phone? What if I need to call someone?” (even at his age, he has great mental acuity and is still able to use his cell phone for audio and video calls and to text) We said, “There’s no one you need to call; we’ve called everyone who needs to be aware of your situation. The nurses and we’ve shown you how to press the ‘call button’ if you need anything, and the restraints don’t keep you from pressing that button.” He continued, “So what do I do if I press the button and no one comes?” We assured him that the nurse would come to assist him as soon as she was able, and that the nurses at their station were monitoring all of his vitals signs and would know to come to him if there was a true emergency.
“Where are my clothes? How will I put them on with these restraints?” he asked, growing increasingly agitated. “Dad, you don’t need to worry about putting your clothes on as you don’t need to wear them while in the hospital. You’re not going anywhere right now, and we know where your clothes are and will give them to you when you need them” my husband said calmly.
“How am I going to sleep with these restraints on?” he demanded. I said, “I know it may not be the most comfortable position for you, Dad, but people throughout the world have slept in far worse conditions than this and you’ll make it through the night. You’re in a comfortable bed and in a safe place where you have everything you need” He then retorted, “But I’m 93! How can anyone expect me to sleep like this?! You try and sleep with these!” I tried to soothe him by saying, “My Dad was 95 years old when he was in the hospital and put in arm restraints for his protection too, and he was able to sleep.”
I trust you get the picture. He was ‘anxious about many things’, none of which required his attention. He was so fearful of ‘being out of control’ that he worked himself into a dither, which of course wasn’t good for him— especially since his heart condition was one of the many health ailments for which he’d been hospitalized. We assured him time and time again that the restraints that he vehemently resisted had only been put in place for his good, and that everything he needed was readily at his disposable and provided for him.
As he started to ask another question, I blurted out: “Dad, just surrender to the restraints. Don’t fight against them; they’re for your good and to protect you from harm!” As the words escaped my mouth, I immediately was convicted of how many times in my own life I had resisted the ‘Restrainer’ by not trusting in Him. (The Holy Spirit is known as the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7)
How many times had I resisted the Holy Spirit by insisting upon having ‘my will’ done, rather than surrendering to His will? How often did I worry about things that I didn’t need to worry about, instead of believing in God’s faithful promises and His assured provision for my every need? How many times had I forfeited the ‘peace like a river’ that the Lord longed to give to me because I had ‘become anxious over many things’ and chosen to worry about my circumstances rather than trusting in Him Who is far more knowledgeable than I and above every circumstance? How many times did the Lord look upon me when I resisted Him and think, “It would be so much better for you if you would just quit resisting me and instead surrender to Me and My perfect will”?
My father-in-law, like most all of us, loves to be in control. Due to his unwillingness to turn his life over to Christ, he is especially anxious at this stage in his life when he is more aware that his life is ebbing. And his anxiety went into overdrive when he was placed in a hospital situation where he felt he was out of control. The one thing he had control over was how he was going to respond to his situation. Would he continue to resist the restraints imposed upon him for his good, or surrender to them? I’m grateful to report he finally chose to surrender to the restraints—I think his desperate need for sleep got the better of him—and when we came back the next day he was sleeping soundly and never mentioned the restraints again.
You and I also need to remember that we always have control over how we will respond in every circumstance in our lives, even when we feel and fear being ‘out of control’. So how can we respond so that we don’t succumb to anxiety, worry and fear?
You likely have heard the scripture that says, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. What many forget is what immediately precedes those words: Submit yourselves therefore to God.(James 4:7 ESV) All too often instead of submitting to God and resisting the devil, we resist God and submit to the temptations of the devil, who entices our flesh. We must remember the order: we have no power to resist the devil unless we have first submitted ourselves to God. Like my father-in-law who resisted his arm restraints, we resist the One Who wants to ‘restrain us’ for our good in order to protect us from our own selfish interests and selfish will. Instead of looking to God and surrendering or will to the Holy Spirit Who alone can quiet our spirits and give us perfect peace, (Isaiah 26:3) all too often we give into the temptation to fixate upon ourselves and upon our circumstances—circumstances that seem overwhelming to us, but our nothing for Him! Instead of feeding our spirit with faith in God, we feed our worries, anxieties and fears— none of which take into account God’s Sovereignty and His love. In doing so, we forfeit the peace God longs to give to us.
It’s also important to note that immediately following the above scripture, James writes:
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10 ESV)
The key to having a life that is free from anxiety, worry and fear is be found in knowing God and submitting your imperfect, selfish will to His always loving, always all-knowing, always good and always perfect will. But we must be willing to humble ourselves before Him, to draw near to Him, to confess our sins to Him and admit our need for Him—the Perfect ‘Restrainer’. In humbling ourselves and drawing near to Him we will come to know Him and learn that we can fully trust Him with everything that concerns us. And in knowing Him, we will realize that all of His commands are always for our good, and in obeying those commands—like “do not be afraid” and “be anxious for nothing”, we will experience ‘peace like a river’. (Isaiah 48:18)
Questions to ask yourself:
Do you have a need to ‘be in control’? Do you become anxious when things appear beyond your ability to control? What has generally been your response when that occurs? How do you think God would want you to respond?
Do you worry about things that do not concern you? Things that are ‘none of your business’? Is there any good that is produced from that worry?
Do you worry about things that have already been taken care of for you, and/or that God has promised to provide for you? What does that worrying say about your trust in God? How does that worrying rob you of the peace God longs for you to have?
Are you overcome with anxiety because you resist surrendering to the Lord and to His perfect will? Ask God to show you where you are resisting His will and insisting upon your own will; when we insist upon our will it indicates our pride and belief that we know better than God does.
Lord, I know that You alone know all things, including what is best for me. And You alone are able to provide for my every need. Forgive me when I have resisted Your perfect will and insisted upon my will instead, which has led to my being ‘anxious about many things’. Help me to submit to You at all times so that I am able to resist the devil and the temptation he entices me with to give into my sinful desires and selfish flesh patterns, including my desire to ‘be in control’. Lord, I relinquish control of my life to You, and ask You to help me to have no will of my own other than to do Your will! Lord, I long to draw near to You so that You will draw near to me; help me to look to You at all times, especially when I feel fearful. Humble my heart so that You may exalt me and lead me in the paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake. I love You, Lord; help me to love You even more and to trust Your Word and Your will at all times! Amen.