One of the things I’ve discovered as I’ve confronted and worked through my anxiety is that (for me at least) much of it is connected to control. I fear being controlled, losing control, and not having control. Not being able to predict, plan, and prepare for things can leave me shivering, sweating, and struggling to breathe.
I know part of this goes along with anxiety as a mental health condition. But there’s also a layer that’s something human beings — no matter how their brains function — have struggled with for years. We don’t want to accept “that control is an illusion. There is only one Sovereign … and it isn’t me” (What Does Your Soul Love?).
Now, by saying this I don’t mean for us to think, “Great, one more thing I need to ‘fix’ about myself. As if there wasn’t enough on the list already.” That kind of response is still trying to cling to our own control over the situation. Not only that, it leads to self-condemnation which (as a friend recently reminded me) is not a good place to be. Instead, the solution to grasping for control we can’t really have is to surrender everything to God and trust Him to be God.
Let Go, and Let God
I’ve been reading a new book, which will be out in September, called What Does Your Soul Love? by Alan and Gem Fadling. Chapter 8’s title is “Control: What Are You Clinging To?” Reading it has been a challenging, but it’s one that I’ve found both convicting and helpful.
“Much of the anxiety we carry is actually brought on by our own fear and a desire for control. We want to put our fears to rest, so we try to control people and situations …
“Letting go is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself … [It] is a process, and the loving arms of God are a good place to start” (What Does Your Soul Love?)
Of course, my first response to this was trying to come up with a plan for how I can get better at letting go. Then the book hit me with the line, “We want to get control of our transformation and cling to personal strategies of how to make it happen.” I do that. Even reading this book is another step in trying to get reliable, controllable strategies for fixing myself.
“Sometimes, my implicit prayer when it comes to change has ended up as something like, ‘Lord, change me … as long as I can be in control of how it happens.'” (What Does Your Soul Love?)
Ouch. I do that, too. The unknown is scary, but “I’m afraid” isn’t a good excuse for not putting yourself in God’s hands. Attempting to control things ourselves certainly isn’t safer than trusting the only all-powerful and all-loving Beings in the universe. The Father and Jesus are perfectly capable of handling anything we face and They want us to let Them help. Also, They’re not going to condemn us for struggling. God is love, and filling us with His love is how He transforms us.
In one of His most famous sermons, Jesus said there is no need for us to be anxious. We “aren’t able to do even the least things” (like add an hour to our lifespan or a few inches to our height), so “why are you anxious about the rest?” Our Father knows what we need, so there’s no reason to worry that He won’t provide (Luke 12:22-30).
But seek God’s Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. Don’t be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. (Luke 12:31-32, WEB)
We don’t have to frantically try to figure out how to provide for ourselves, how to keep our lives running smoothly, or how to get ourselves into God’s kingdom. We don’t just sit around twiddling our thumbs, of course, but worry should not be our driving force. In modern terms, God is saying, “Relax — I’ve got this.”
In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7, WEB)
There’s an incredible sense of peace and wholeness available in letting go of the need to be in control, and then trusting God to handle the things we worry about. Trust is a hard choice, but it is a choice we can make over and over again in our walk with God every time new challenges come up.
Relax; God’s Got This
When I think about trusting God, the first scriptures that come to mind are in Psalms. David and the other psalmists wrestled with times when it seemed as if God wasn’t going to come through, and they learned to trust Him anyways. The Lord proved again and again that no matter how overwhelming their situation, He would not abandon them and things would work out for good in the end.
Yahweh is my light and my salvation.
Whom shall I fear?
Yahweh is the strength of my life.
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers came at me to eat up my flesh,
even my adversaries and my foes, they stumbled and fell.
Though an army should encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear.
Though war should rise against me,
even then I will be confident.
One thing I have asked of Yahweh, that I will seek after,
that I may dwell in Yahweh’s house all the days of my life,
to see Yahweh’s beauty,
and to inquire in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me secretly in his pavilion.
In the covert of his tabernacle he will hide me.
He will lift me up on a rock. (Ps. 27:1-5, WEB)
The Lord is trustworthy, so much so that when you’re being attacked on every side you don’t need to worry about it. He’s got this, and that frees you up to focus on seeking Him. It’s all about relationship.
Rest In Love
Over and over throughout scripture, God invites His people to set aside the pressures, worries, and burdens we fill our lives with and trust Him to handle things. He is a Father perfectly capable of providing for and helping His little children, and He wants us to let Him do that.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your worries on him, because he cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:6-7, WEB)
“Cares for you” is pretty self-explanatory, but just to reinforce the point here’s the definition in the original language. Melo (G3199) conveys the idea that someone cares about, is concerned for, and takes interest in you (Zodhiates). In short, you matter to them.
He has said, “I will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you.” So that with good courage we say, “The Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:5-6, WEB)
We tend to think bad things will happen if we relax control. But in truth, surrendering to God brings peace, freedom, and joy that we can’t know while we’re frantically grasping for ways to rule our own lives. It’s okay to rest in the love of God. Instead of striving for perfection and trying to fix ourselves, we can let His love filling us be the thing that creates positive change in our lives.
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