Read 1 Samuel 4.
"Why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the Lord's covenant from Shiloh, so that
it may go with us and save us from
the hand of our enemies."
- 1 Samuel 4:3 -
In chapter 4, we see that there's some pretty major things going on for the Israelites. They're in a war against the Philistines and not doing so great. The Philistines are pretty tough dudes, and they have many gods – gods that they've made idols for that they bring with them to battle. The Israelites remember how their God brought them out of slavery in Egypt so many years ago and they decide that maybe they should bring an idol of their God down to the battle field as well. The elders of the city meet together and decide to have Eli's sons bring the ark of the covenant down from the temple. Probably not the best idea they've ever had, since they're not supposed to cart it around and show it off!
Long story short, Eli's rebellious sons bring the ark to the battle, the Philistines see it and become afraid (they've heard about the escape from Egypt, too) and they make a rally cry and become to determined to fight even harder. The Philistines win the battle by a long shot and capture the ark. Eli's sons are killed that day (just like in the prophecy), and when Eli hears the news about the ark, he falls over and breaks his neck and dies as well. It's all a very dark and sad day for the Israelite people.
I was reading back through this chapter over and over, trying to read critically and see if I could find myself in this story. I had to put it down and come back to it before realizing that I am 100% right there with the Israelite people. Through doing a little research, I found that during this time the Israelites weren't particularly spiritual people. If you've read much of the Old Testament, it's easy to see that they wander away from God often, even after He's proved himself faithful to them over and over. They easily doubt. They easily fear. They become frustrated when He doesn't give them what they want or when He doesn't move things along fast enough. This is a pretty prime example here in 1 Samuel – instead of calling the people to fast, offer sacrifices, or pray together, they decide it would be best to bring the ark out of the temple (a big no-no) to show it off before the Philistines. This backfires completely and they suffer huge consequences.
How often do I try to control a situation to find a "quick fix"? (All the time.) I know I've done this with my jobs, with my friendships, with anything I want or think I need... I try to make the process move along faster. I try to control the outcome. And nine times out of ten, this doesn't turn out so great because I'm not being prayerful and I'm not listening for where God might be leading me in the situation. I hold onto the control so tightly – if I would just let Him in, he would create so much more beauty in my life then I could even imagine.
I had a friend tell me recently that she feels that God often works in this way in her life – that He gives her just a glimmer of something, enough to spark her curiosity, that she has to step into it a little bit to see anything further. That He encourages her to make a decision, to dig a little more, to spend a little more time with that person, before He gives her another glimmer of clarity. Sometimes we're going to walk through seasons where we're not even 75% confident of what we're doing, but we're listening just enough to know that God is guiding the way. It's a weird place to be in and, if you're a Type A planner like me, it can be terrifying.
The best place to start letting go of control is through prayer. When we lay down the things that are on our hearts, our honest desires (remember Hannah?), God is good to listen and to offer guidance. It might take awhile to see it, and it might not turn out the way we had in mind, but His ways are so good. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" He desires us to walk with Him through every minute of our day so that he can show us glimmers of His perfectly made plans, so that we can lay down our pride and our fear to live a life focused on His goodness and His strength... so that we can do more with our lives than any of our best "quick fixes" could.