CONTROL. I like to be in control. There are many reasons and circumstances in which I like to be in control, but the underlying motive behind my desire for control lies in my intrinsic need for security. I (foolishly) think that if I can control the outcome of a situation, then I will be secure. I will be safe. I will be taken care of. All of my needs will be met. If I can plan the events so that the outcome is to my favor, then I’m good to go! I can plan for all possible outcomes. I can try to manipulate the situation to yield the outcome I desire. I attempt to control our financial situation so that we will be taken care of and worry free. I attempt to control our marriage to avoid unnecessary conflict and have both of our needs met. I attempt to control the circumstances in Riley Grace’s life to ensure that she is safe and free from harm. I attempt to control our employment situations in order to aid in our financial security. And on and on and on.... Can anyone relate to my desire for control, which is driven by the need for security? Can anyone relate to the examples that I listed? Unfortunately, this control plan of action contains numerous flaws.
The fundamental issue within our attempt to control things is TRUST. If we are attempting to control something, then that means we do not have proper trust in the Lord. We need the Lord to show us and remind us that HE IS TRUSTWORTHY!
TRUTH: God is in control; we are not. God is infinite in wisdom and power, and we are very limited. He is good, and we are sinful. He is trustworthy, and we are fickle. This truth may be comforting, or it may cause anxiety to know that you are not in control. This truth should be comforting because we know how fickle, weak, and unwise we can be. Even though we are not really capable of being in control, we still attempt to tackle decisions and circumstances with our own strength and intellect, instead of relinquishing control to the Author of Life. We shouldn’t trust ourselves to be in control!
Powerful Reminders about the Character of God (in light of our issue with control)
God is sovereign.
His ways are not our ways.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
He will lead us in His ways.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8
When we attempt to control situations, we are ultimately stating with our actions that we are “wise in our own eyes”. We are showing that we believe that the control belongs to us. Proverbs warns us against being wise in our own eyes. Instead, we should trust in the Lord and fear Him only. Our own understanding is very limited. Attempting to control our own lives (and inevitably not trusting that the Lord is in control) is not pleasing to Him. One area in which the struggle for control gets me into major trouble is in my marriage. I don’t mean that I get in trouble with Patrick regarding my desire to control. The trouble comes when I attempt to control a situation in which the Lord never intended for me to control. The Lord intended for the husband to be the head of the marriage and the head of the family. The Lord has entrusted this role to my husband. Scripture is very clear about that. However, not a day goes by that I don’t try to sneak in and control something in our marriage or family (sometimes it’s not so sneaky). I will assert myself in a financial decision, parenting decision, or spiritual decision. When I try to take over, I am minimizing and not trusting in the leadership role/initiative that Patrick could have taken. I don’t even give him a chance to lead because I’m too busy blurting out my opinions or criticizing or worrying! This control struggle wears me out and wears him down. Patrick and I have had the conversation time and time again about the truth that I am not called to lead, which is why I become emotionally drained, stressed, or depressed when I fail at it! I know that it’s sinful, but because of my apparent lack of trust in the Lord’s sovereignty and in my husband’s calling and ability to lead, I try to snag the control in just about every situation. Thankfully, both the Lord and Patrick have been gracious as I struggle with this issue. Isaiah 55 and Proverbs 3 are very convicting and encouraging passages in light of my struggle for control.
God is omnipotent.
We can’t fathom the depths of his power and wisdom.
“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.” Jeremiah 10:12-13
This image of God’s power is truly breathtaking! He made the world and everything in it. He established the boundaries for time, the seasons, all of the peoples of the earth, and He holds everything together. He is truly all-powerful. He is not a God who uses His power for evil. Rather, He is a good, gracious, and loving God that uses His power for His glory. Because He is good, we can trust that His power will not be used for our harm. He loves us and cares for us as children. Yes, He disciplines us and allows us to endure trials, but He allows these things because, out of love, He desires our spiritual maturity and sanctification. We, on the other hand, are NOT always good and definitely NOT omnipotent. Thankfully, we are not omnipotent because we are sinful and finite! We have limitations. We have sinful and self-seeking motives. We cannot see into the future to know the ways in which our current decisions will affect other people and future situations. So thankfully, we are not in control! Unfortunately, we are not always thankful that we’re not in control…
God is omniscient.
God is all-knowing. Who can understand the mind of the Lord?
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36
We are not all-knowing. God is the only being that is all-knowing. He created all things and knows the times and seasons for everything under the sun. We can search out God’s character and seek His Word for all of the truths listed about Him, and we would never reach the depth of who He is. As much as we may attempt to know all things and control all things, we simply cannot. Our understanding is limited and our abilities are limited. We are finite creatures. The Lord knows this about us (of course He does – He made us!). He tells us to trust in Him at all times. He tells us not to worry about tomorrow. He warns us against anxiety, and instead encourages us to turn to Him in prayer in all circumstances. When we don’t turn to him and instead attempt to control our circumstances, worry inevitably ensues. We worry because once we attempt to control a situation, it becomes apparent that we can’t control it! Once we see that we are out of control, we worry. Can anyone see that all of the attempts to control things that are out of our control will cause lots of unnecessary anxiety?! Even though it’s pretty clear that we are finite and not all-wise, we still try to take the reins on situations in which we can’t control and weren’t meant to control. It seems very scary at times to let go of control, but it’s actually the wisest and best thing we can do – because God is WISE and ABLE and we are not! It’s actually a much more dangerous and risky scenario when we (who are finite, sinful, and possess limited knowledge) try to hold on to control.
God is loving and just.
As a loving Father, He disciplines His children.
“My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:11-12
“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:5-14
(Steering the stroller by herself)
(Enjoying a nice stroll)
(Thinking about standing up while the stroller is moving)
(Standing up while the stroller is moving)
Riley Grace is at a stage where she is becoming more and more independent. It’s interesting to watch her as she tries to learn new things on her own. Sometimes it’s very cute, and then sometimes it’s rather dangerous. One example of her budding independence is found in our nightly routine of taking a walk around our apartment complex. Usually, when we begin the walk, she is sitting in her stroller. By the middle of the walk, she wants to get out of her stroller and walk around. She either wants to walk beside me without holding hands or she wants to push the stroller by herself. It looks so funny to see her pushing the big stroller by herself. There are a few issues with Riley Grace’s desire to complete this task alone. One issue with her pushing the stroller is that she cannot steer it very well. The stroller is a cheap umbrella stroller that has taken a beating on the uneven sidewalks surrounding our apartment, and the front wheels don’t work very well. Sometimes, you have to pick the stroller up to reset the front wheels so that they’ll actually move forward. She cannot do that. However, she does not want any help. If I try to assist her by putting my hands on the handles to help her steer, she stops the stroller and moves my hands! Another issue with her pushing the stroller is that she cannot always see where she is going. She is just tall enough to see over the top, but her line of sight is not very clear. She doesn’t always know what’s ahead, whether it’s the crossing street, another person, or a pothole in the sidewalk. A third issue is that the handles are too high for her. She insists on keeping her hands at the level that an adult would use instead of putting her hands on the back of the stroller. She wants to use the handles even though they are too high for her, thus creating more steering issues. A fourth issue is that she is easily distracted. If she sees a squirrel or hears a train, then she wants to veer off of the safe path to follow the new sights and sounds. The culminating problem from all of these issues lies in the fact that if she cannot steer well, cannot see well, refuses help, and veers off of the path, then she is putting herself in danger. As her mom, I want her to be able to exercise some independence as she learns new things, but I also want to protect her from the dangers of the busy streets and uneven sidewalks, dangers that she cannot fully comprehend or protect herself from as a 21-month old toddler. So, in the instances where she refuses my help and tries to go her own way, she receives my correction. She does not always welcome that correction, but I love her, and so I offer the correction anyway. She tries to be in control of the situation, but there are many factors in this situation that are out of her control. She doesn’t have the physical ability to completely control the stroller. She doesn’t have the mental capacity to be aware of the dangers she may face. She also doesn’t have the understanding to know why I am correcting her. Even with her limitations, I still need to correct her because as her mom, I have more wisdom to understand the situation. I love her and want to care for her even if she doesn’t understand why I will not allow her to have control. In the same way, the Lord may discipline us with regard to a certain situation in which we are struggling to control. He knows the bigger picture. He is aware of our limitations, even when we deny them. He knows what is best for us, even if we are convinced that we know what’s best for us. He creates limits and boundaries for us because He cares about our spiritual sanctification. It is safe and wise to trust in Him instead of in ourselves.
1. EVALUATE: Where do you find yourself within the struggle for control? Are there certain situations in which you attempt to control (children, husband, finances, job, friendships, future, etc.)?
2. MEDITATE: Meditate on the following verses. Which situations do you need to trust God more (instead of trusting in yourself)? What are some situations in your life in which you desperately need Him to reveal the right paths to you?
“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:1-5
3. TRUST: Of the attributes listed above describing the character of God, which one do you find hard to trust? Which aspect of God’s character do you forget about when you are attempting to control something? What Scriptures can you hide in your heart in order to learn to trust God more?
4. PRAY: Ask the Lord to change your heart about the issue of control. Ask Him to deepen your trust in Him. Ask Him to reveal to you the areas that still need to be surrendered to Him.