Giving up control is the only way to get what you really want

Jennifer DeWeil

“Who is in control here?!”
“I feel out of control!”

If you are anything like me, there’s a big chance that at some point in your day, one — if not all — of these statements crosses your mind, and, quite possibly, your lips! 

Gaining control is as possible as taking a picture of a unicorn, and maintaining it is as easy as catching the wind. Even though we know unicorns don’t exist and catching the wind is impossible, we still strive for control. 

In the 1940s, American theologian Reinhold Neibuhr wrote the Serenity Prayer. Part of this prayer became popular among churches and was even adopted into an addiction recovery 12-step program: 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, 
Courage to change the things I can, 
And wisdom to know the difference.”

Inside this short prayer is the potential for massive life change, if we take time to refocus our perspective. 

Who’s in Control Here?!

While we want to answer, “Me!”, the only person in control of anything is God. Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” 

If you feel out of control, it’s because you are. But you couldn’t be in better hands. Proverbs 16:3-4 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end.” You can walk in the serenity, or peace, that Neibuhr’s prayer spoke of because God is in control and He wants only the best for you. 

God created each of us for a purpose He predetermined (Ephesians 1:11). And no matter what our circumstances may be, God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). 

If you find yourself walking around worn out and frustrated, there’s a chance it’s because you are trying to control everything or everyone around you. Control is the enemy of rest. Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). When things feel out of control, our tendency is to hold tighter, grip harder, or work more. But Jesus explains that the opposite is true. He wants us to come to Him, with open hands and hearts and surrender to Him. He will meet where we are, and He will be our rest. 

Control Check Up

I wish giving up control was easy-peasy, but the reality is it is a fight. Here are some questions I use to check myself when I feel the control freak rise up in me: 

1. Am I feeling this way because of a decision that I made? 

We decide what we allow ourselves to be involved in. What we say “yes” or “no” to is in our control. Often, I feel tired and out of control when I have overcommitted myself or when I have isolated myself from others who can help me. 

2. If my circumstances cannot change, can I change?

Many times things happen to us or around us that we cannot control. Trying to control the situation or the people involved can bring stress, misery, and more dysfunction. What we can control is how we respond to the situation. Instead of choosing to grumble or complain, take a moment to pray. Ask God for wisdom and thank Him for the promise that He will give it to you when you ask for it (James 1:5). 

3. Do I need help?

Chasing control becomes consuming and overwhelming. Finding your way out can seem impossible without a fresh perspective. We weren’t made to do life alone! People who love Jesus and love you can help you see where you’re trying to control things that are out of your hands. Let a group member or care volunteer guide you toward the serenity of trusting Jesus, the one who is in control. 

The only way to experience the rest and peace we crave is to learn to trust God to do what He can do and focus our time on what we can do. 

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