I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m a control-freak. Well, at least I used to be.
My sanity revolved around carefully constructed plans, determined to the smallest detail, with every possible outcome weighed and accounted for. And if not? Fear reigned.
Because of this, I used to think that being so organised and reasoned in my thinking was a poor character trait. But what I’ve since realised is that it is not the skill itself (indeed, a God-given gift) that is negative, but the attitude and reasoning behind it.
My motive for considering every detail had always been control, whether I had realised it or not. I liked to be prepared so, naturally, I needed to examine every possible outcome so that I could prepare for it. However, any deviation in my plan would render me stressed and anxious. That anxiety would manifest itself in a variety of ways – trouble sleeping; repeatedly playing out various scenarios over and over in my head; rehearsing conversations if I anticipated conflict and confrontation; tension in relationships… essentially, just driving myself crazy!
The funny thing was, I was never in control to begin with. By desiring to control, I had essentially put myself in God’s role (no wonder I experienced so much anxiety!) At the root of the desire to control I was simply stating, “my ways are better than God’s ways.” Ouch.
My need to control situations – whether good or bad – was exhausting and sapped me of all my energy. And it all came to a head in July last year.
For months I had been trying to control the various areas of my life – work, relationships, church – leaving me so drained that I was simply now running on maintenance mode and doing my best to avoid a crash.
I gave what I could at work, but I felt frustrated and ready to give up.
I was selfish in my relationships, only looking for what I could get out of them.
My attendance at church dropped, and I began to resent the ministries I was serving in.
The voices in my head condemned me for my failing attitudes and told me I was no longer good enough to serve God like I had once hoped I would. I was now out-of-control, and I had never felt so anxious and lost. But, thank God, He had not let go. I had a weekend away booked – to Germany, as it happens – and He met me there in a very real way.
The weekend began like any other short break – laughs with friends, good food, a bit of sight-seeing, sitting in the sun – but what I really needed – rather, what my soul was craving – was time alone with God.
That Sunday afternoon, 3rd July 2016, I released my need to control and accepted something so much greater – the knowledge and true belief that God could be trusted.
As I sat and listened to worship music, journaled, read my Bible, and poured out my heart to God – the honest, vulnerable, uncensored cries – He began to overwhelm me with His acceptance and love. As I reflected on the weeks and months past, I started to recognise answered prayers that I had been too blind and distracted to see at the time. Despite feeling alone, I identified God’s quiet, consistent presence; His gentle hand steering me through some of my darkest days. As I sat that day, staring up at the grey cloudy sky, I experienced real rest in His presence and the inner turmoil I’d felt in the preceding months began to melt away.
That summer I embarked on an exciting rediscovery of God’s kind nature – His love, forgiveness, acceptance, and faithfulness. As I relinquished control of my own circumstances and simply sought to know my Heavenly Father more, my anxiety dissolved and my passion was reignited.
Prayer suddenly became my first line of defence, not a last resort. I let go of my need to control because I knew the One who was truly sovereign over all things. I knew He loved me more than I could ever imagine and therefore His plans for me were good and would not lead to disaster.
I no longer needed to feel prepared for whatever situations I faced – whether anticipated or not – because I trusted God to meet every need in every outcome. I still had to be a good steward of what He gave me, and I reinstated disciplines to help me as I sought to be more Christ-like, but the best way to prepare for any outcome, I realised, is to consistently and entirely depend on God.
In the months since that revelation of true rest, my perspective has been completely transformed and His peace is what now guides me. In relinquishing control I’ve experienced a new freedom; my once mundane and highly regimented daily routine is now viewed through the eyes of an Indiana-Jones-like adventurer, anticipating all the surprises God has in store for me every single day! I have made it a priority to replicate often the atmosphere of that cloudy day in Germany so that my eyes remain fixed on Jesus, and not distracted by the circumstances around me. I am still organised – yes. I still make plans – of course. But I am no longer seeking to control the outcomes of these plans like I once did because I rest assured in God’s sovereign purposes for my life and know that, no matter what I face, He is the answer that I need.