I was always the youngest in my class. Starting school at four years old had some advantages, but this early immersion into the world of peer hierarchy, and imposed structure, hit me squarely between the eyes. I didn’t realize it at the time, however. Hindsight can be both your best friend and your worst enemy. Looking back I see the insecurity and helplessness that I felt; I longed for something that I could control.
As I grew older I clung to things that provided a sense of accomplishment. Something that was dependent upon only me. I never felt at home in team sports, but I found some measure of solace in individual sports: swimming, running, wrestling. Where I was successful I knew that it was because of my efforts. And, when I didn’t achieve the results I hoped for, I knew that I didn’t have anyone but myself to blame.
Even as an adult I found that I really only felt secure when I was in control of my circumstances. Of course, life never seems to cooperate with my preferences. And to make matters worse, I have found that I, and we, tend to cycle back through lessons that we fail to learn the first, or 700th, time.
Fortunately for me I am learning to let go of control. I can’t honestly say that I have learned, but rather that I am learning. Some things take a lifetime to achieve.
Perhaps you have found yourself in a similar struggle with control. How can we successfully relinquish it and still have peace in our hearts?
The first step involves learning to trust the love of God. I speak from experience when I say that trust isn’t easy. When you’ve been hurt by others it’s easy to build walls around your heart. Keeping others at arms length means that they can only get so close; it limits the amount of hurt you feel when they let you down. But building walls and pushing people away requires a lot of energy. Even as Christians, we have the ability to keep God at arms length. We do this for the same reason we do it for people. We don’t want to get hurt. But, while people will let us down, God won’t. The answers we receive. The results we pray for which don’t come to pass. The hardships we must endure. It’s easy to see these things as God failing us. But the truth of the matter is that He knows what is best for us. Every difficulty we face is an opportunity to develop our faith, to strengthen our bond with God and with others.
God loves us. Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (ESV). “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV). God is trustworthy. We can’t control every circumstance in our lives, but we can control whom we trust with our circumstances.
I know of that which I speak. It is not an easy road learning to trust God. We all wish it were, but it is not. Do a study of love in the scriptures. Write down all of the verses. Read them regularly. Memorize. Then, when the storms rise, you will have laid up a storehouse of God’s love. Trust will be easier. I promise.
The second step is mindfulness. Learn to recognize the precursors to your need for control. The earlier you become aware of it sneaking up on you, the easier it will be to release it. It’s like the start of a forest fire. It’s so much easier to make certain the campfire is completely extinguished than it is to stop an out-of-control, 50-square-mile blaze.
For me, the greatest struggles for control occur with regard to my finances. When money gets tight, so does my chest. But if I catch myself right away, and I remind myself of how much God loves me, I am able to find my peace in Him. The financial situation hasn’t changed, but I have shifted my focus from my troubles to my Savior.
It takes a lot of practice, but it is worth it. Trust God with control of your life. Be mindful to learn from your experiences. Remember those lessons the next time you face a challenge for control.