Ever notice how when you’re doing a group project and your group members aren’t taking the project as seriously as you want them to, you get really frustrated with them? Or, at least, I do. There’s nothing worse than getting a slacker group that doesn’t care and ending up with a terrible product (be it grades or sales or lesson plans). It’s so frustrating because you know you personally worked your hardest, but you don’t get the result you feel you deserve because of other people’s laziness or incompetency.
This is one symptom of a serious problem many people face: the need for control. I, as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, deal with this issue ALL THE TIME. I feel a strong desire to be in control so I can manipulate all the inputs and get exactly the output I want (which is exactly what happens in real life, right?). If something is important to me, like preparing a special meal for my friends, I won’t let anyone else help because I am afraid they will mess it up, which will reflect badly on my own skills (because everyone knows friends only come over for tasty food, not to enjoy your company).
I think a lot of the control problem is rooted in perfectionism. Of course, it can also stem from some serious hurts that you want to avoid ever experiencing again or a lack of trust, but those are topics for another time. Today I want to focus on what God is teaching me about being a control freak.
First of all, I think the need for control is in direct opposition to a true understanding of God’s sovereignty. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” It’s obvious that God has a plan, and that his plan is going to be accomplished. Therefore, control is an illusion.
Second of all, I think the need for control is rooted in a mistrust of God’s provision and lovingkindness. We think that because things aren’t going the way we think they should (you don’t get that promotion, that girl turns you down for a date, you fail that test, you don’t get on that team) that God must not have our best interests at heart, or that he isn’t paying attention. We think, “God’s not going to do anything, so I’ve got to get out there and make it happen myself. After all, God helps those who help themselves, right?” But this is a lie! Our God is a good God, and his plans are always good! Matthew 6:26-34 says,
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
The point of quoting this piece of Scripture is to highlight how much God cares about his kids. When you think about how much God loves you, and what he’s trying to accomplish in your life (that is, to make you more like Christ), then you can take comfort in the fact that he is sovereign and accomplishes his purpose. You don’t need to control everything! Trying to take control away from God is like a woman trying to take the lead in a dance. In dancing, if the lady doesn’t do her part and follow her partner’s prompting, the dance falls apart. If the lady tries to start leading the man, then the dance just gets downright awkward; it doesn’t flow smoothly or gracefully like it should.
Life is like that dance. Our job is not to take control, but to follow the cues of the One who is leading us.