There are moments when my jaw stiffens and my breath is shallow. Tension runs down my neck, spanning like a glacier from my scalp to my shoulders. I can’t relax. I can’t let go. I can’t chill out.
I can give a textbook list of reasons why. I’m a first-born. A people-pleaser. A peace-keeper. A manager. Type A. I love beauty and order, and I just want everything to “be okay.” But if I’m honest . . . the real reason I want control over my life is deeper and darker.
Months ago, while working on a design project, I hit a dead-end. With limited time and skills, I hated the thought of facing hundreds of printed duplicates, knowing my work wasn’t “perfect.”
If I’m honest . . . the real reason I want control over my life is deeper and darker.
“Most of what is happening is outside of your control,” my director texted. “You are not God and responsible for the whole of the ministry.”
The words – you are not God – struck a chord. When I want control, it’s usually because I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failure, loss, or disappointment. I’m afraid of miscarried hopes and God’s seemingly barren “no” to my prayers. As Carolyn McCulley writes, “When you fear someone, you distrust his motives, actions, and words.” (1) When I want control, I’m afraid that what God says is “best” won’t actually be “best.” I doubt His love and I therefore attempt to be God instead.
But when we distrust God’s love, we make ourselves miserable. In an attempt to be God, we function as if life’s outcomes pivot on our performance. We become defensive and compromising. We manipulate and misuse others to get what we want, and in a blitz to overcome the obstacles to our self-seeking ambition, we cause hurt and devastation. So what should we do?
When I want control, I’m afraid that what God says is “best” won’t actually be “best.” I doubt His love and I therefore attempt to be God instead.
I don’t have a “5 Step Plan” to overcome my inner control freak. If I did, I would turn it into a color-coded list and try to control my own “controlishness.” But sanctification is not achieving perfection in our own strength and then turning to God and saying: Okay, Lord, you can love me now that I’ve got everything, including my inner control freak, under control!
Guess what? God’s love for us does not depend on our ability to control the world. Hallelujah! Nothing separates us from His love and He will finish the work He began in our lives (Rom 8:31-39; Phil. 1:6). So when the fire gets scary, be still. Don’t wriggle out of life’s uncomfortable circumstances, while offering God an alternative “plan a, b, or c” to hurriedly approve and activate instead. Rather, repent of your desire to control the situation – to be your own God. And then trust Him.
What does it mean to trust? It’s when a daddy throws his little girl in the air. She doesn’t calculate the distance between herself and the floor. She doesn’t frantically clutch the ceiling fan and suggest he get a mattress for her to land on. No! She squeals. She laughs. And then she asks him to do it again! Why? She trusts him and not even for a moment does she doubt that her daddy loves her.
. . . my Father is teaching me to laugh in life’s mid-air moments. He’s always caught me and He always will.
I realize that I will most likely struggle with the temptation to seize control all of my life. But while I still don’t like life’s white-knuckled situations, I’m learning to give thanks for them. Because, in and through them, God is teaching me to trust Him and He’s showing me that there is no need to fear. After all, He’s always held me in His “righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Yes, my Father is teaching me to laugh in life’s mid-air moments. He’s always caught me and He always will. He is God and I am not. And I can relax. Because God loves me, He is for me, and in His sovereign grace and goodness I am secure, now and always.
(1) Carolyn McCulley, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? (Illinois: Crossway, 2004), 53.