Control, Fear, Trusting God

Fear: Why We Seek Control

@JeanneTakenaka +Jeanne Takenaka

I’m just going to say it. I hate not being in control. I’ve played tug-of-war with God for years over who’s in control of my life. I would yank on that rope, thinking I had control of my plans and dreams, and that God would come alongside and nod agreement to my plans.

I know. Silly me.

And then He tugs back when life circumstances overwhelm me with their bigness.

This past summer was a difficult one for our family. Choices were made that have long-range consequences and required changes and relinquishment of some freedoms.

Hubs and I dealt with the situations. My mom-mode was to figure out what needed to be done to fix the situations.

See? Control.

My heart, though . . . it was broken.

As we walked through the days and decisions and disappointments, I wanted to control it all. I wanted to force the right decisions to be made by the parties who had to make them. 

But I couldn’t do that.

Fear of not knowing how to handle everything swirling around me—and fear of not knowing the way forward from that place—took root in my heart. 

I had no way to control the outcomes. No way to make things work out positively for everyone.

That sense of helplessness had my heart racing and my stomach clenching and my thoughts dive-bombing into dark places. 

And then I had a car accident. Not serious. No one was hurt. At first, it was one more thing weighing on my shoulders. One more thing that had to be dealt with. 

As I talked with a friend, relaying the latest drama in my life, God used our conversation to speak truth into my heart. 

Because I couldn’t control the situations in our family . . . 

. . . because uncertainty was the only certainty . . . 

I had slipped into a place of self-sufficiency. I had opened the door to fear. 

And fear moved in, took up residence, wreaked havoc with my sleep and my health . . . 

And I had allowed it to do so.

When I face uncertainty, fear sidles up and whispers its lies into my ear. It tells me things like, “If you don’t get a handle on this, bad things will happen.”

Last summer, I discovered how fear is the underlying motivator for my need for control. I want to control circumstances, because then I know how they will turn out. I don’t have to worry about being hurt or about failure.

But the thing is, when I take control, I leave God out of the equation. Then fear steps in and stirs things up. Fear creates a driving sense of urgency to do—to keep moving forward—without stopping to pray and invite my Father into the situation.

When I walk in fear I’m not trusting God . . . with my life. With my family. With my circumstances.

It’s a lonely way to live, because fear also isolates. I begin to tell myself lies that drive wedges into my relationships, especially with God.

When I seek to control things, I’m not trusting God. When I seek to control I’m trying to play God. But the thing is? I’m not nearly big enough, strong enough, or wise enough to take on this role. When I play God in my own life, I will fall short. I will fail. 

Here’s the hard part. The way to loosen fear’s grip is to be willing to relinquish the control we think we have into God’s hands. 

When circumstances feel overwhelming—when they appear far bigger than we are—that’s fear magnifying the unknowns. 

The way to counter this is to remember that we are children of a Big, Glorious, Loving Father. Our circumstances may seem dire, but our God is bigger. They may appear scary, but our Father is the God of peace. He loves us perfectly, passionately, completely.

And though He never promises to shield us from life’s hard seasons, God does promise to walk with us through them. And He is the God of light. He reveals fear for what it is: a device the enemy uses to keep our eyes on ourselves and off of the Lord. 

When we know God’s character—when we believe He is who He says He is—we can place our trust in Him.

When we place our trust in Him—to guide us through the easy and the hard, through the joys and the sorrows—we realize He’s the best One to have control of our lives. 

Even when God allows difficult circumstances into our lives, we can trust that He will also bring us through the hard. 

We don’t have to be in control. We don’t have to be fearful because we are held by the One who loves us best and wants His best for us.

As for our family, we’ve worked through most last summer’s events. My sleep and my health have improved. We’re figuring our way forward as we trust God to offer resources and wisdom. 

I still don’t like not being in control, but I am doing better with remembering that my God, who loves me most and loves me best, has got me. And He is in control.

What about you? When do you find you most want to take control in your life? How do you handle fear when it comes knocking on the door to your life?

***This post originally appeared on The Fear Warrior blog.***

Click to Tweet: He reveals fear for what it is: a device the enemy uses to keep our eyes on ourselves and off of the Lord. 

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup and #TellHisStory

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30 thoughts on “Fear: Why We Seek Control”

  1. Brilliant post, Jeanne. The connexion between fear and the nee for control is a profound one, and you nailed it. And you guys are and remain in my prayers.

    Upon this dark and bloody ground
    I sometimes feel alone.
    No friendly voice, nor the sound
    of a songbird’s cheery tone.
    I want my eyes to pierce the mists,
    at least to dimly see
    that I’m not forsaken in the lists
    from which I cannot flee.
    And lo! the light is rising now
    the dour fog coalescing
    in rainbow hues that just allow
    a vision of dawn’s blessing.
    And around me golden angels stand,
    and stoop, to take my hand.

    (‘Lists’ is the medieval term for the barriers which defined a jousting ground; to be in the lists is to be in the arena, so to speak)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew, I love your poem. Truly. I’ve read it a few times now. God does help us when we’re in the middle of the hardest seasons. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I continue to pray for you, my friend.

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  2. Jeanne,
    Thanks for being so vulnerable here. I have been a chronic control freak for a large portion of my life and if I’m not careful I easily slip back into that mode. Fear is certainly a big flaming arrow in the arsenal of the enemy. If he can get our eyes off God and HIS sufficiency then he has us living fearful and afraid. Also, like you said, fear and control isolate and destroy….the enemy’s agenda. I have always been one who wants to fix, but God’s been teaching me that I don’t have to fix everything…in fact almost none of what’s troubling me is mine to fix. Trust….Faith….Surrender….I pray for these everyday because I struggle as you do. Excellent post!
    Blessings,
    Bev xo

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    1. Bev, I knew I wasn’t the only control freak out there. We do have to be so intentional about staying in a place of yielded trusting the Lord, don’t we? And yes, the enemy does seek to destroy and isolate us. I’m finding there is a lightening of my burdens when I realize I don’t have to fix everything. I love your three prayer words. I think I’m going to “borrow” this idea. thank you so much for sharing here, my friend!

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  3. These are “good for me” words (blog broccoli?) today, Jeanne. The minute things go into the unexpected in these parts, my heart finds its way to fear and I start angling to stay in control–even though I’m largely steering blind.
    Thanks for steering me in a better direction.

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    1. I love that, Michele. Blog broccoli. 🙂 It seems to be my “go-to” to try and wrangle in the unexpected so it fits in my box . . . so I can control it. I’m thankful our Lord never steers blind. 🙂 I hope He meets you right where you are today, my friend.

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  4. Such truth. Obviously God is gifting you with wisdom through your trials. I’ve been there and although it’s not fun, we have to know He will make something good out of our pain. Fear keeps us hurting and letting go of it and our uncontrollable circumstances is the only way to find the freedom we need to move forward. Good words, my friend. thank you.

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    1. You’re sweet, Jan. We all have to come to that place of trusting the Lord with our uncertainty, don’t we? I’m grateful God never wastes our pain. You are right, that when we let go of fear and our need to control those uncontrollable circumstances we can walk through in freedom. Thank you so much for stopping by here today!

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  5. Beautiful, Jeanne. I am dealing with a very difficult situation now. The need to relinquish control is evident, but somehow it is hard for me to do. Thank you for your wise words nudging me in that direction!

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    1. Laurie, I’m sorry you’re dealing with a difficult situation now. I will be praying for you as you grapple with letting go of control. It is hard to do. But, I know God will honor your decision to trust Him. Saying a prayer right now!

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  6. Thanks for your words here, Jeanne! Control is an ongoing issue for me too and you’re absolutely right – it’s allowing fear about what might happen to take root, taking my eyes off God and thinking that I have to fix it. So many times I think I’m making progress and then I fall back into it again. Letting go is really not easy but it is definitely best.

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    1. Lesley, control is such a hard thing to let go of isn’t it? I’ve fallen into the thought trap of thinking it’s all up to me to fix whatever is wrong. I’m glad God is patient with us and helps us navigate life and learn how to surrender everything to Him. I keep thinking about Phil 1:6, He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. Including helping us learn to let go. 🙂

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  7. “That sense of helplessness had my heart racing and my stomach clenching and my thoughts dive-bombing into dark places.” Oh yes, Jeanne, I can so identify with this feeling. It can be so hard to open up our fists of self-sufficiency, that thinking “I can do it better,” and surrender it all into God’s all-wise plan. Thank you for being so honest. I’m so glad you’re doing better with figuring out the way forward for all of you. And your nature pictures so remind me, too, that God is still in control. Love and blessings to you!

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    1. Trudy, I’m sorry you know those feelings so well. And you’re right, self-sufficiency is lauded by our world, but a hindrance in our relationship with god. Learning to live with an open hand and to trust God in all things is hard, but so much better for us. Thank you for your sweet presence here each week, friend. Sending you love and hugs!

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  8. Oh Jeanne, thanks for doing what needs to be done – to expose fear as a liar, a fraud, a great big wet blanket that paralyzes us. Thank you for showing us how to shed it, to move ahead in faith despite all the uncertainty and pain and disappointment.

    I’m tracking with you, friend … gratefully.

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  9. Your words could also be my words. I don’t like not having control either. In fact, I keep trying to grab it back from God with little success.

    Your thoughts about fear really spoke to me. I am learning a lot about what it looks like in my own life right now. Thank you for walking this path with me.

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    1. Mary, we are such kindred spirits! It is true that fear looks different in each of our lives. It usually still has the same outcome though. I’m glad we don’t walk these paths alone, my friend. Saying a prayer for you today!

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  10. This line: “When circumstances feel overwhelming—when they appear far bigger than we are—that’s fear magnifying the unknowns.” How fear magnifies itself and introduces and magnifies many unknowns. It’s such a crippling emotion. Thank you for this encouragement, Jeanne. It must have been hard to write. That’s courage. 🙂

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    1. You’re so right, Stephen. Fear is crippling. I’m so glad our God is faithful to walk with us and to help us learn how to trust Him in situations that could be fear-inducing. I so appreciate you stopping by!

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  11. Thanks for sharing so openly. I see much of myself – and my need to control (even manipulate) events, decisions, people, circumstances, the list is endless – in your honest sharing. It is always helpful to see how God is teaching and correcting….as well as encouraging others with similar things. And so glad to hear that your health is improving:)

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    1. Jennifer, I’ve grappled with the whole control/manipulation thing too. I’m glad God is a patient teacher, a loving Father, and gracious. Thank you for your kind words. Have a great weekend!

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  12. I’m glad God navigating you through that season of unrest and changes, J! There’s the fear that can grip us when about to do something out of our comfort zone. And then there’s the fear from unwanted circumstances that jump us into a fight or flee state. The latter completely out of our control! In the bible ‘do not fear’, I believe, is one of the most repetitive phrases. God knows we are going to fear. He never wants to condemn us for our fear, yet teach us how to deal with it so we can have clear minds and peaceful hearts. Just recognizing we are in fear, can help us look to His ways to calm our fears. When that fear and anxiety hits, I’ll also try to place boundaries around my time so I don’t add anymore stressors! Sometimes I can be my worst enemy!

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    1. Lynn, how I love your insights here. There are different kinds of fear. And isn’t it true that fear is something that so many of us seem to do when we don’t understand or when things get out of control? I love your reminder that God has woven that command, “Do not fear” throughout His word. I like your idea of placing boundaries around your time to help you navigate through fear and anxiety. Wise words there. 🙂

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  13. Oh, Jeanne … I’m hearing you loud and clear. The lessons you’ve been sharing that have flowed from this past year of your life have been comforting and encouraging … praying for you this morning, my friend.

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    1. Annette, fear is soooo sneaky! As I’ve been thinking through my upcoming series, I’m seeing the many things in my life that cause me to react in fear. We do have to keep our guard up by recognizing it and then taking it to the Lord.

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