Few of us like the out-of-control feeling that comes with change, but life is rarely as predictable or controllable as we would like. Our health fails, a loved one dies, a relationship is broken, a job ends. One moment we feel safe, secure, and in control. We know who we are and how we fit into life. The next moment everything changes. We’re unable to manage our time, activities, relationships, emotions, and decisions. We lose our sense of identity and purpose. We feel helpless, confused, and scared.
Changes that limit our ability to “call the shots” in daily life often have a dramatic impact. After discovering her husband’s secret drug addiction, one nurse said, “I went from making critical, life-saving decisions on a daily basis to not being able to decide which shoes to wear. I felt completely incapacitated.” The inability to make daily decisions and the uncertainty of not being able to function “normally” can threaten our well-being and sense of identity.
Jan Dravecky remembers fighting to hang onto control – to hang onto her life and identity as she had known it – while her life spiraled out of control. “Each time I’d get knocked down,” she write in A Joy I’d Never Known, “I’d say, ‘Okay, I’m going to be strong'” Like a weary prizefighter, “I would pull myself up by my own power, by my own strength. But I couldn’t stand up under the unceasing blows: Dave’s cancer, his retirement, his recurrent illness, my parents’ deaths, Paul’s (a close friend) suicide, our unrelenting schedule. Finally, I told God, “I can’t do it anymore. I can’t do this.'”
Most of us, like Jan, don’t surrender control until we have no other option until we’re at the end of our rope.
Although surrendering control is never easy, the benefits are more than worth it. When we finally surrender, when we admit to God that we aren’t in control, that we no longer know who we are, and that we need His help, something amazing happens. Peggy, a recovering cardiac bypass patient, describes it as an immediate feeling of relief. “As soon as you give up the situation, a complete peace washes over you,” she says. “You realize that God is in control, He is good, and He will take care of you. You can relax and rest in His protection, knowing that He is in total control.”
Jan agrees. The more she surrendered control to God and let Him work out the problems and show her who He created her to be, the more she saw that God could do a better job with her life than she could. “I’m so glad that my life didn’t follow my plan, that it followed God’s,” she writes. “Things turned out so much better than I would have planned them.”
Even so, surrendering control isn’t a one-time event. “The peace that comes from giving your situation to God can come and go,” Peggy explains. “It’s like scrambled eggs. You have to work to keep them from running all over the frying pan! It takes a conscious effort to keep your anxious thoughts and worries corralled and surrendered to God.”
It not only takes work to surrender control to God, it takes courage, especially if you’re a “recovering control freak” like Jan. She knows that God wants us to trust Him outside of the plan we have for our lives, but that’s a scary step. Life becomes an adventure when you give up control, Jan says, “because you don’t know what God is going to do next.” Yet she can say with confidence that “everywhere He has led us has ultimately been what is best for us and for His kingdom.”
Despite the feelings of uncertainty, giving up control enables us to receive untold blessings. We benefit from God’s companionship because giving up control requires ongoing communication with Him. We receive God’s peace because we let Him carry our burdens. We find God’s rest because we can trust Him to work out the master plan for our lives. Plus we learn to walk confidently in our true identity of God’s children, an identity that is unchanged by the winds of adversity.