Waking Up to the Illusion of Control

In our new book, What Does Your Soul Love?, one of the eight questions we ask is, “What Are You Clinging To?” It’s the question of control. Many of us struggle with control issues. We want to feel safe, so we seek to take control of things and even people around us. This doesn’t generally turn out so well, for us or for others.

What we’ve discovered in our journey with God is that our souls actually love to be abandoned to the loving and good purposes of God for us. The reality is that when and where it comes to control, there is actually only one Sovereign—and it isn’t me.

I found myself recently in conversation with a young man with whom I meet regularly. We were talking about how hard his job was and how many personal and relational challenges he was facing in his season of life. Things felt out of his control and he didn’t like it. It was clear that he felt life would be better if he had a different set of circumstances or had a better sense of control over his current ones.

The sentence I felt rising up in me, and it felt like a gift from God, was this: “The ideal situation in which to grow spiritually is your life now, exactly as you find it.” Cooperating with God’s transforming intentions for our lives would not happen better somewhere else or at some more ideal time. Clinging to some ideal situation that is other than where we find ourselves isn’t a fruitful posture. It makes our lives smaller.

I’ve come to love the wisdom of an early eighteenth-century spiritual writer by the name of Jean-Pierre de Caussade. This is what he had to say about this place of trusting the good purposes of God in his transforming work in our lives:

“God’s designs, God’s good pleasure, the will of God, the action of God and his grace are all one and the same thing in this life. They are God working in the soul to make it like himself. Perfection is nothing else than the faithful co-operation of the soul with the work of God, and it begins, grows and is consummated in our souls secretly and without our being aware of it.”

Transformation is the fruit of God’s pleasure, God’s intentions, God’s purposes, and God’s work, which are not different things but facets of a single rich divine reality. Entrusting ourselves to God’s care rather than trying to take control of our situations and relationships is freeing. Bearing up under the weight of control takes its toll. We find we are unable to keep going while carrying the world on our shoulders. You just might find that your soul loves trust more than it craves control.

 For Reflection:

  • In what situations or relationships do you find yourself trying to take control?
  • What would it look like to open your hands, release your white-knuckled grip, and find the freedom of trusting God’s capability and care?
  • What next step do you feel God inviting you to take?

 (Adapted from What Does Your Soul Love?)

Photo by Yann Allegre on Unsplash

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