I have a confession to make, I can be a bit of a control freak.
(I just heard some of you chuckle, you know who you are.)
I have a tendency to like things a certain way. I am a planner and it’s important to me that I know what’s going to happen next and exactly how it’s going to happen. I think I know what is best so, I have a tendency to want to make sure it goes a certain way…my way, to be exact.
If I am in control, I am also able to know what is coming next and how to handle it. Right? It makes sense.
But here is the truth. I am not in control, and either are you. Believing we are is a lie from the enemy.
In my first blog post, I mentioned John 10:10 and how our enemy, the devil wants to kill, steal and destroy everything in our life. He wants us to believe we are in control of our lives because when he achieves that he can steal away all the plans God has for us. He can destroy us from ever experiencing what it says in Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
But what do God’s plans have to do with fear? Oh my friend, EVERYTHING.
From where I sit, God’s plans have been SO incredibly different than my own and it’s in that place of fear I have learned to surrender my plans for His to do the very thing He has called me to do. To accomplish that calling every day without being overcome by fear, anxiety and worry, I have to be totally surrendered to Him.
Last week I talked about overcoming fear with peace and how Philippians 4:6-7 became my mantra through some really challenging experiences. If you have not read that post, you may want to go check it out here. The enemy would love nothing more than to keep you paralyzed in your fear than have you walking in perfect peace.
But fear is just the emotional reaction to the real root of the issue. If we dig deeper we’ll see the true root of all of this is not fear…it’s a lack of trust or to put it bluntly, a need for control.
Our fear is based in our need for control because when we are in a place where we cannot physically see or know our outcome it produces fear.
For years, people spoke Jeremiah 29:11 over my life. It was said with such frequency to my husband and I it almost became our running joke. When and who would say it to us next.
Well, the joke was on us.
Because we had it all wrong when it came to this verse. We had totally twisted this verse to sound more like this:
“For I know the plans I have for me”, says Dawn/Chris, “plans to prosper me (the way I want to prosper, especially as it pertains to finances and work) not to harm me (no physical harm will ever come to me because this would mean God really doesn’t love, care, or have concern for me), plans to bring you hope (everything I ever hoped for will be mine, no matter the cost…my relationship with God or others) and a future (the one I have already designed in my mind that seems perfect to me.)
How’s that for a dish of truth? Anyone find themselves in the same spot?
We don’t mean to do this; some of us really do want to allow God to give us His good plans. But somewhere along the lines of life we began to believe our plans were better. But at some point we started to believe He stopped listening or He didn’t really care. Or maybe it was, whatever we wanted our plans to be didn’t work out the way we thought they should have, even though we prayed and asked Him to be in the midst of them. So we took the reigns and got back in the drivers seat.
I have been there with you in those. Believing for a certain job, in the desire for children and having a miscarriage, after miscarriage and infertility in the midst of it. In praying for someone’s behavior to change and they never did, or a circumstance to be different than it was and it felt as if I my prayers were reaching the ceiling and falling back to the ground. It was hard, really hard.
Honestly, I would still probably be thinking the same things if God hadn’t stopped me in my tracks and taught me the truth. And here it is…
We are not in control.
We like to think we are, but we are not and the tighter we clinch our fists around it the harder we make it for ourselves and for God to do what He needs to do in our lives. So how did I learn this truth, you ask? Well, I am glad you did. I learned it the hard way of course, as if any other way would have truly gotten my attention.
If you recall from last week, I was learning about overcoming my fear through a carotid body tumor. In doing so, He taught me to trade my anxiety for peace. When I had my surgery, He had a new lesson for me.
My surgery was scheduled for June 1, 2011. We showed up very early in the morning at the Vanderbilt Clinic in Nashville, TN. While I was being prepped for surgery, the doctor reassured us this would be cut and dry.
“The surgery should be no longer than 3 hours. We are going to go in and take out the tumor, use a vein from your thigh to graph the artery back together into your neck. There is nothing to worry about, we’ll be in and out in no time,” he assured us.
My mom had come in from Virginia for the surgery, so she, my husband, and my in-laws sat in the waiting room. Three hours past. Then four. And five. At about the sixth hour mark the doctors came out and told us the team was almost done and shared how things were a little different when they got into my neck then what they had thought.
“The tumor was alive and sticky,” my doctor told my family, “we couldn’t see that from the CT scan. We had to give her 4.5 units of blood and it took us a bit longer to peel the tumor from her arteries. She now has one artery instead of two and we’ll need to check in with her to make sure it stays clear. She’s also going to have quite a bit of nerve damage as we had to severe a few, but they should grow back over time.”
My stay in the hospital was originally scheduled for three days, one in the ICU and then two on the step down floor. I spent three days in the ICU and then ten more on the step down floor. Those first few days of recovery were hard. It didn’t take long for us and the doctor’s to realize the damage done from the removal could be life threatening. I could not consume food or liquid, unless the liquid had a thickening agent in it and even then it was in small doses. My voice was badly damaged, my leg on the mend. I was on a regular diet of pain meds and nutrients from an IV. Things seemed to go from bad to worse, as the doctor’s concerns grew over my inability to consume food. The talk of a feeding tube became a daily conversation and it was the very last thing I wanted, but I could not get myself to be able to eat.
Here is what I wrote on June 11, 2011 in a blog post about the experience:
“God has been teaching me a lot over the last 6 months about what it means to fully trust Him.
Before going through this surgery, I sensed Him saying to me, “Are you going to trust me in any circumstance?”
Because of that I had a feeling I’d be thrown some loops in this process. Just wasn’t sure what.
This past Wednesday, after a secondary surgery, I was having a rough morning. Swallowing was more difficult than before and my voice was in worse shape. I had a swallow study scheduled and I knew my outcome. A feeding tube was going to be in my near future. Unfortunately, I was right. The speech pathologist put me on a strict liquid diet and was recommending a feeding tube. My mom and I were devastated. We cried all the way back to my room and then sat and cried while we prayed in my room listening to some Christian worship music.
Mom had left me for a few minutes and I just felt God saying to me, “Do you still trust me Dawn?”
I did. I still do. I surrendered my plans over to him yet again and I felt a peace come over me. The same peace I spoke of before the surgery. I knew in my heart whether or not I got the feeding tube, God loved me just as much. In fact, I had came to the conclusion getting the feeding tube may be the most loving act He could do on my behalf right now.
After a few hours visiting with a friend, I tried to eat my lunch. Before I knew it I had finished my strained chicken vegetable soup and drank down a whole bottle of ensure. It was a breakthrough I know many had been praying for. It was my first full meal in a week.
The doctor came up to see me that evening to insert my tube and to his surprise, and ours, he left the bag and tubing on my tray table. There would be no tube inserted that day. He left the bag for my motivation, as long as I ate my dinner there would be no tube and I could go home the next day.”
And I did.
It wasn’t until I surrendered my plans and trusted in Him that I received peace. He is in control and His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a better hope for the future, the one He has planned for me.
Here’s one other interesting fact about Jeremiah 29:11. God is speaking to the Isrealites through the prophet Jeremiah in the middle of the Isrealites going into captivity…again. God is saying to them…”If you will trust me, do what I say, stay true to my word, I am going to bless you, even while you are in bondage for the next 70 years.” If you don’t remember this, go back and read Jeremiah 29, it’s really eye-opening. I believe God is saying the same to us today. If you trust me (aka give me control), no matter what your in the midst of right now, I am going to bless you.”
So now when I find myself wanting to control things, I stop myself and walk through these steps:
- Repent – I repent of believing the lie that I am in control. I am not and to be honest, I don’t want to be. Not anymore. I know His plans are good and I can trust Him. So I want to get out of the way. The only way to do that is to repent and get aligned with Him.
- Renew my mind – I need His Word to do this. I will use a scripture verse to remind me of His will, whether it’s Jeremiah 29:11 or Proverbs 3:5-6 which says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
- Release – Sometimes we need a physical example of our loss of surrender and so what I often will do is think about the thing that I can’t seem to let go of and mentally put that thing in my hand and the clinch my fist around it. Once I have it there, I’ll start praying to God asking Him to take it from me and helping me to release my control over it. When I get to a point in my mind where I can start to let go, I literally start letting go, releasing my fingers from my clinched fist until I find my hand or hands completely open and then I worship Him.
- Obey – You have to put action to this, it can never be just a change in your heart. To truly overcome fear, you have to practice the act of obedience because this is us not just saying we are going to do what He says, it’s showing it too. Sometimes this can be really scary and I have to repeat this process, but eventually I get to the place where I know Jeremiah 29:11 is truth and by obeying Him and taking Him at His word, I gain one up on the enemy. And instead of him stealing my future, I get one up on him and in doing so experience more of the abundant life that Jesus told us about in John 10:10.
How have you struggled with control before? And what have you learned from your experience that could help others?