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Confessions from a Recovering Control Freak

Her life came to a grinding halt. Struggling to control her circumstances, she fought anything potentially standing in her way—people, circumstances, even God. Wrestling became a debilitating way of life. In the end, exhaustion prevailed. 

Control—a natural desire—if left unchecked, unleashes its destructive forces upon everything in its path. 

Living in fear as long as I can remember, I sought solace in the feigned powers of control. I attempted manipulating circumstances to alleviate fear’s relentless forces, but in the end, my soul suffered silently—until it could take no more.

Desires and dreams, both God-given, are sources of delight, motivation and purpose. But when we’re consumed with their realization, they quickly become disasters in the making. 

Idols always are. 

…desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. James 1:15

Even good and worthy desires can morph into sinister forces when made into ultimate ambitions. 

A spouse, child, career, home, good reputation, safety, health—all admirable aspirations—take on a life of their own if allowed first place in our heart—a position designed for God alone.

If unbridled, chronic controllers like me run a high risk for stress and overwhelm, eventually leading to mental and physical burnout

We never fall into healthy living—spiritually, mentally or physically. It’s either pursued, or we’re riding the rapids of cultural trends or out-of-control desires downstream.

But God is in the recovery business! His rescue mission is merciful and miraculous. 

We have a part to play, yes. A small act of faith—like touching the hem of His garment.

Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately…  Luke 8:44

Like this woman spending every dime on healing in vain, what are you trying to fix in your own power? 

  • A relationship gone wrong
  • A career gone sour
  • A wayward child 
  • A wearied body
  • A battle-scarred mind 
  • A withered soul
  • A broken heart
  • A dying dream 

What “immediately” do you need?

  • Forgiveness in the fractured relationship
  • Wisdom for the career breakthrough
  • A returned child
  • A restored body
  • A renewed mind
  • A refreshed soul
  • A re-assembled heart
  • A reminder the Author of your dreams is faithful 

But when there’s a pause between the time we reach out and the moment of our immediately—what then? 

While God holds our circumstances in His capable hands, there are practical next steps I learned in the wait. After all, He gave us dominion over the earth, which implies action. (Gen.1:25)

1. Ask Jesus what’s next.  

He will faithfully reveal our next right steps. Life experience and listening to others’ stories prove He typically reveals only a few at a time, but He’s so faithful. He waits for and loves us to ask!  

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure your faith is in God alone. James 1:5-6a

2. Pray for strength.

Jesus knows about weariness. Most of His time on earth was spent in perpetual motion. He understands and delights to strengthen us when we ask!

(Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy and find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:15-16

3. Stay in community. 

Our tendency when we’re struggling is to isolate. This is the worst thing we can do for our mental, physical and spiritual health! Resist this tendency and stay connected to family, friends and a church homegroup. Jesus frequently strengthens us through the encouragement of others.

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another… Hebrews 10:25

4. Seek wise counsel.

As a controller, my tendency is to figure things out on my own. Yet I seldom possess all the right answers or make the wisest choices. I’ve learned I need godly people to speak into my life.

God often equips us with wisdom in the context of relationships.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9

I now realize I cannot control my way into getting my way. It’s been a tough, tearful lesson, but one I needed desperately. Years of unwillingness to fully surrender my heart and will to a loving, tender Shepherd have left scars on my soul. 

I’m being made new every day, but, while scars prove healing took place, they don’t have the same give

Friend, our bodies, minds and spirits are remarkably resilient if cared for and cultivated. What control are you fighting for? Can you open your clenched fists and trust your loving Father? 

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4 

He has good plans for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) Trust His goodness, rest in His truth, and take your next step with Him. 

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