When the circumstances of life are out of your control and you are faced with the choice of running to God or running from Him, it's time to deal. I've seen it go both ways. That sudden storm of life comes and a person blames God and retreats from Him. I can't tell you how sad that makes me as I see in my mind's eye the faces of people who I love who have made this choice. Folks who live now without acknowledging God in their lives. For the life of me, I can't understand it. The storms of life are not without purpose. When the soul is in the greatest of adversity God is the most real and loving. It's only there that you learn a new and closer walk with Him. We've spoken of it many times, with many more times to come. Oh, the things that God taught me in the darkest hours of the night! The comfort I found when fear overtook me. The dependence on Him that I learned when I thought all was lost. But today I want to share a few things that you can control, even when the circumstances of life are out of control. Even being empty and totally relying on God, there are some things that He expects you to control. He will strengthen and help you, but you must make the choice to live in a way that pleases Him. Things you must choose to control: 1. Your surrender to God. Your faith and trust in Him. This is the basis of our opening statements. Choose to run to God. Psalms 50:15 2. Your thoughts. You control your thoughts. Only you. Be careful. Satan desires to have you and will sift you like wheat. This is were he will get you. He will defeat you in your thought life. Every. Single. Time! James 4:7 3. Your attitude and response. When you are being mistreated, you can choose to respond with the unkindness you are being dealt, or you can choose to take a higher road. Respond toward God, not toward men. Retaliation is not my thing. I decided a long time ago not to wrestle in mud. Some may see this as weakness or guilt. Let them. I like having peace with God and sleeping at night. :) Luke 6:35 4. How kind you are to others. Some people allow bitterness to change them into a mean person. I see it all of the time. Growing up, my kids would ask me why so-and-so was so mean. I always answered the same. Because something sad has happened to them, and bitterness has changed them. They are afraid of being hurt again and they push people away. Think of how sad and unhappy they are, and try to lighten their load by being kind to them anyway. Especially to them! Love the unlovely. Don't allow that to happen to you. Reject bitterness and beg God to keep your heart sweet and tender. Then choose to be kind. It is a choice. Be kind! Ephesians 4:32 5. Who you choose to surround yourself with. In a storm, you will by necessity need to spend a good bit of time alone. Alone with God. Crying to Him and wrestling with Him. It's part of the process. But some of the time, you will need other people. Choose carefully. Surround yourself with people who love the Lord and have a positive outlook on life. Avoid negative people at all cost! Proverbs 22:24 6. How you take care of yourself. What you eat and how much you exercise. You can't always control how much you sleep during a storm, because sometimes the thunder and wind keep you awake, but do the best you can. Shower and get dressed, even if you don't feel like it and you are not going anywhere. Looking like death-warmed-over makes you feel like death-warmed-over. Try to take care of yourself. Go get a haircut, come home, look in the mirror, and practice smiling again. :) 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 7. How grateful you are. Thank God for what you still have. Speak with gratitude. Embrace it in your heart. Your choice. Psalms 107:1 8. What you read or watch on tv or listen to. This will affect your thoughts. Be very careful here! This goes right back to #2. Galatians 5:13 9. How much you pray. I've told you before that I've learned to pray in a whole different way. My prayer life was seriously lacking before my latest storm. It still is. But it's way better. Serious on-my-knees prayer has been my lifeline. And I pray I never lose that need. Luke 11:9 10. How open you allow your heart to be to love. You've heard me say that I love easily. I love big and feel deeply. I say, 'I love you' often to those in my life. Because I do. And because I choose to not allow that to be changed. Even if it means being hurt by someone who I've allowed to get close. People who love large hurt deeply. But I refuse to allow that fear of hurt control how I love. I just refuse! 1 John 4:11 Ha! I'm making you look up the Scriptures yourself today. :) Make good choices. Even in the midst of your most ferocious storm. By God's grace, choose well!