Why We Struggle with Control and How to Let Go More Often

Kia Stephens

iBelieve Contributor
Published: Aug 29, 2019
Why We Struggle with Control and How to Let Go More Often

I was in my early 20s when I discovered mt dilemma with control. While serving in ministry I found myself overcome with frustration that I naively voiced publicly. Thankfully, I don’t remember the entirety of my rant, but I do recollect the grand declaration at the end of it.

“I have a problem with control,” I said boldly for anyone who cared to listen.

Although those words were spoken in haste, they were an accurate depiction of a human struggle, that at some point, is common to us all. But why? Why are we so obsessed with control or the lack of it?

In this I-want-it-my-way-world, we have attempted to manipulate everything. We try to control the totality of our days on earth. Our weddings are planned before we get engaged. We place our names on a daycare waitlist for unborn children. We scope out potential neighborhoods before we can afford it. All the details of our lives must be controlled and fit snugly within the parameters we mapped out when we were twenty-something.

Of course, this is not how life works. The effort we put into controlling circumstances does not correlate with our ability to do so. Most of us continue to try ineffectively. It makes no sense to live this way, but we are lured by a struggle that did not originate with us. The root causes for this age-old issue is seen throughout the pages of Scripture.

I was in my early 20s when I discovered my dilemma with control. While serving in ministry I found myself overcome with frustration that I naively voiced publicly. Thankfully, I don’t remember the entirety of my rant, but I do recollect the grand declaration at the end of it.

“I have a problem with control,” I said boldly for anyone who cared to listen.

Although those words were spoken in haste, they were an accurate depiction of a human struggle, that at some point, is common to us all. But why? Why are we so obsessed with control or the lack of it?

In this I-want-it-my-way-world, we have attempted to manipulate everything. We try to control the totality of our days on earth. Our weddings are planned before we get engaged. We place our names on a daycare waitlist for unborn children. We scope out potential neighborhoods before we can afford it. All the details of our lives must be controlled and fit snugly within the parameters we mapped out when we were twenty-something.

Of course, this is not how life works. The effort we put into controlling circumstances does not correlate with our ability to do so. Most of us continue to try ineffectively. It makes no sense to live this way, but we are lured by a struggle that did not originate with us. The root causes for this age-old issue is seen throughout the pages of Scripture.

1. We Struggle with Control Because We Believe It Will Make Life Better

Do you remember the serpent’s words to Eve in the book of Genesis? After Eve responded to his initial question, he gave a cunning reply. “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it (the tree of knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

Here the serpent appealed to Eve’s curiosity. In doing so, he tapped into the part of Eve that desired to be like God, “knowing both good and evil.” Eve may have questioned what God knew, and what she didn’t. She may have pondered what the serpent meant when he said her eyes would be opened.

Eve began to evaluate whether God was keeping something from her. This something would make her life better. That day the serpent offered Eve an opportunity to gain control and she took it.

Her subsequent act of disobedience burst the door wide open for her sons and daughters to wrestle with the same battle for control. The theme of a better life is found at the root of our personal struggles. We mistakenly believe that an outcome of our choosing is better than the one God has chosen for us. God, however, knows the beginning from the end and He has a master plan for this world and our individual lives as well.

2. We Struggle with Control Because We Think We Know What Is Best for Others

One place our struggle with control reveals itself is in our relationships with family and friends. Many of us mistakenly believe we know what is best for everyone. We would never say this out loud, but it is evident in the way we freely offer our suggestions to others. If they would simply follow our advice everything would work out fine.

 This was the case with the mother of Zebedee’s sons. Matthew chapter 20 tells the story of how she came to Jesus in order to ask Him for a favor. She knelt down and said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom” (Matthew 20:21).

This appears to be a bold power play on the part of the mother, but she failed to understand that Jesus didn’t come to negotiate positions in heaven. In hindsight, this mother’s actions may seem ridiculous, but it is not that different from the ways we have tried to control or manipulate situations on behalf of our family and friends.

We cannot allow ourselves to completely disconnect from this mother because she, like many of us, was driven by her desire to do what she believed was best. This temptation is common to many.

Although this is not a sin, God asks that we trust Him. This trust includes the lives of those we hold most dear. We have the assurance that Romans 8:28 applies to all who believe in Jesus. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

3. We Struggle with Control Because We Desire Significance

When it comes to significance, we are faced with so many competing factors. Although we know our identity is found in Christ, we are tempted to believe it is found in our careers, materialistic things, who we know, and notoriety. For this reason, many of us are tempted to control our lives in order to achieve what we believe will give us the significance we crave.

This was evident in the life of Solomon. Solomon amassed much of what many people would deem significant in today’s culture. His wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East and Egypt. Men and women of all nations came to listen to his wisdom. He amassed great wealth and property, had many who worked for and served him, and had 900 wives and concubines. He was living what appeared to be the good life: a “significant” life.

Many would covet this life, and yet Solomon himself describes it all as meaningless in Ecclesiastes 1:2 (NIV). “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!’” In his final analysis in Ecclesiastes 12:13 he says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Solomon, a man who had it all, said that rather than pursuing significance, we should fear God and follow God. This is a major cultural shift because it requires us to do the opposite of what the culture overwhelmingly tells us to do. Pursuing God rather that significance is an invitation to relinquish the pressure to be considered significant in the eyes of man. We do not have to control our lives in order to become significant when we are already significant in the eyes of the One who matters most.

4. We Struggle with Control Because a Lack of Control is Scary

Let’s just be honest, we struggle with control because giving it up is downright scary. The idea of not being in control conjures up thoughts of chaos and disorganization. Feelings of fear and anxiety creep in as we entertain the possibility that things may not go the way we want them to go. This fear is driven by the thought that my way is the only way for things to work out well, and if it doesn’t, I am afraid of what might happen.

We see this when Lazarus died in the book of John. Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days when Jesus arrived. Can you imagine? Mary and Martha were in the middle of the worst possible outcome; what they feared the most had happened.

When Jesus arrived, Martha blamed him saying, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She failed to realize that Jesus’s healing power could reach beyond the grave.

It was beyond their control. Nothing they could have said or done would have stopped Lazarus from dying. It is possible that the Lord allowed the worst possible outcome to occur in order for Him to display his supernatural power.

This is true for us as well. Although we may fear the worst possible outcome, if God allows it, we can trust and know that He has a purpose and a reason for it. Although we cannot control the outcomes of our lives, we can trust in the One who controls all things.


Kia-stephens-headshot

Kia Stephens is a wife and homeschooling mom of two who is passionate about helping women know God as Father. For this reason, she created The Father Swap Blog to help women exchange their father wounds for the love of God the Father. Kia is also the founder of Entrusted Women, which she created to equip Christian women communicators of color. In addition to these ministries, Kia faithfully serves in Bible Study Fellowship and her local church. When she is not writing or serving women, she enjoys spending quality time with her family and friends. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tijana 87

SHARE