Fear and Control


“Show me a controlling person and I’ll show you a person who is secretly afraid.” Donald Miller

What do you think?  Is that all of us?

Who doesn’t want to be in control?  If pressed, most of us are sure we have a pretty good plan for the universe, right?

I see this most clearly in my relationship with my adult daughters.  When you’re the parent of little kids you exert control for their safety and training.

But, dang if they don’t grow up and start actually having their own opinions and making their own BIG life choices!  Seemingly all of a sudden you’re totally out of control and, (Gasp!), what if their choices reflect badly on you?  Or make your life more difficult?  Or take them down a path you know will be painful?

I find my fists clenched, feel a vague undercurrent of anxiety, and my mind turns to ways to manipulate coerce  gently offer wise counsel.

When we feel that emotion of fear…anxiety…sadness…maybe we need to ask ourselves some questions.

1. “What exactly is it I’m trying to control here?”

My reputation?

My comfort?  My sense of safety?

My need to dominate?

2. “What exactly am I afraid of?”

Afraid of taking the blame?

Afraid of being taken advantage of?

Afraid of pain (mine or someone else’s)?  Confrontation?

3. “What would it look like for God’s will to control me?”

What if God truly is sovereign and capable of redeeming anything?  Any choice?  Maybe the fact that we can’t control God…can’t put Him in a box…is exactly why we don’t need to be afraid.  Because a god we could control would be pretty small.

Is this why the Bible says over and over “Do not fear.”, but also “Fear God.”?

Tim Keller writes:  “Obviously, to be in the fear of the Lord is not to be scared of the Lord, even though the Hebrew word has overtones of respect and awe. ‘Fear’ in the Bible means to be overwhelmed, to be controlled by something. To fear the Lord is to be overwhelmed with wonder before the greatness of God and his love. It means that, because of his bright holiness and magnificent love, you find him ‘fearfully beautiful.’ That is why the more we experience God’s grace and forgiveness, the more we experience a trembling awe and wonder before the greatness of all that he is and has done for us. Fearing him means bowing before him out of amazement at his glory and beauty.” 

When we fear we try to control.  But it is our desire for control or autonomy that is exactly what separates us from God.  There is good reason to be scared if we are separated from Him.

Lord, today, help me (us?) to unclench fists, open hands, bow, and live in awe of  You, not fear for control.

What are your thoughts?


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