So much of life is out of our control. We cannot control other people. We cannot control the weather. We can’t control whether or not we get an illness.
Our powerlessness can be unnerving. We truly wake up every morning not knowing what is going to happen that day. People respond to this fear in different ways. I’ve known some people who respond by being highly controlling. They try to control everyone in their lives. They manipulate or try to bully others into doing things their way. In doing so, they hope to control their circumstances.
Others respond to the unpredictability of life by becoming apathetic. They figure, “If I can’t control life, then why bother to try?” So, they don’t fulfill their potential. They pursue jobs that are easy, jobs which don’t stretch their abilities. They are sloppy and don’t take care of themselves. They don’t pursue excellence.
But I would suggest that there is a third way to deal with our lack of control over life – Put God First. When we put God first, we don’t need to worry about the unpredictability of life. Instead, our priority is God. Our goal is simply to get up every morning and ask ourselves, “How can I serve God today?”
When our focus is on God, we stop thinking about those things that we cannot control. We stop trying to get our spouse to do what we want him or her to do. We stop hassling our kids because they aren’t operating as we would like them to. We are no longer frustrated because our bosses or co-workers aren’t treating us in the way that we would like.
Instead, when we put God first, we have only one objective - to be His servant. That simple, laser-like focus simplifies life immensely.
Let go of your worries. Stop focusing on what you cannot control. Instead, focus on God. Below are some ways to do just that. Consider implementing them in your life.
Read Spiritually Uplifting Books and Articles
As human beings, we are selfish creatures. We don’t naturally put God first. We primarily think of ourselves and our own worldly needs. So, we have to train our brains to think about God.
One way to do that is to read spiritually edifying literature. Starting your day by reading the Bible or a book or article focused on spirituality is a good way to get your mind on the right track each morning. And ending your day by reading something similarly inspirational is a way to bookend your day with a focus on God.
Aside from the Bible, there are many terrific authors who can inspire you to keep God first during your day. I’ve read books by Peter J. Gomes, Joel Osteen, Harold Kushner and Joyce Meyer, all of whom have inspired my spiritual path. I currently am reading “The Book of Joy” which recounts conversations about spirituality between the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
By reading quality books about religion and spirituality, you can keep God at the forefront of your mind. That will help you to keep life in perspective. When you keep God first, you realize that the small aggravations in life are unimportant compared to your bigger objective to serve God in all that you do.
Have a Guiding Spiritual Motto
Many people have a motto that guides their life. Some people use a Bible verse that speaks to them. For instance, a friend of mine recites the 23rd Psalm every chance that she gets!
Having a guiding motto can help keep your focus on God. My guiding motto is “SDG.” SDG is the acronym for “Soli Deo Gloria” which means “glory to God alone.” I have a framed painting of these three letters in my office that my daughter made me. The motto reminds me that everything I do should be for the glory of God. That keeps my life on track. When I am committed to doing everything solely for God, then I do my best in all things. And I try to be kind under all circumstances.
With that motto, the criticisms and negativity of others don’t matter. That is because my job is to serve God, not other people. So, if I am confident that my actions are consistent with God’s will, I don’t worry. My only goal is to be good with God!
Go to Church
I don’t happen to think that people who go to church are nicer than anyone else. I also don’t think they are better human beings. But if your goal is to create a life in which you put God first, it helps to go to church.
For the first 30 years of my life, I went to church regularly. It was incredibly helpful. Going to church every Sunday grounded me. For one morning each week, I put aside my worldly concerns and got back to what really mattered – living a life in service to God.
Unfortunately, due to life circumstances, I stopped going to church for 15 years. During this time, I kept reading books on religion and spirituality. And I prayed – a lot. But without church, my life lost its anchor.
Without church, I stopped trying to serve God. Instead, I spent far too much time trying to make other people happy. And I spent a lot of time with people who cared about nonsense, like being interesting, worldly and fun. It was a spiritually hollow existence.
After 15 years of that, I realized something: My life doesn’t work without church. So, like the prodigal son, I returned to the United Methodist Church, where I had started out as a little kid. And it felt like coming home. I was so happy to return to the same Methodist liturgy and to those wonderful Charles Wesley hymns. And now, every Sunday, I am blessed to go to church and be reminded in yet another way that my life works best when I put God first.
I encourage you to put God first in your life. When we do, everything falls into place. We stop worrying about what we cannot control. Our focus instead turns to the one thing we can control – devoting our lives to God.
Meerabelle Dey is columnist for Beliefnet. To read more from Meerabelle, visit her column Your Morning Cup of Inspiration. You also can follow her at meerabelledey.com. Meerabelle holds a B.A. in History and Religious Studies from the University of Toronto and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law.