God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you… (Andrew Murray)
It is not unusual for us to struggle over losing control when it comes to our children and other people who are important to us. Sometimes what we consider to be loving and well-intentioned actions toward those whom we love are actually controlling ones, which are prideful, idolatrous or unfaithful. I’m sure none of us would ever want to get between God and the people we care about, but it may be that we are doing just that.
For instance, we may tell ourselves that we are concerned on behalf of our children about their manners, dress, or performance in school or in sports, when actually we care more about how the world will perceive us based on their appearance or success.
While there is nothing wrong with wanting our children to dress appropriately, be respectful and polite, and work to their potential, we must ask ourselves whether our concern for them arises more out of our own fallen needs than their well-being. It could be that instead of helping them to grow up and be responsible we are, instead, micro-managing every aspect of their lives in order to assuage our insecurity and feel better about ourselves. If this is the case, then we are motivated by pride, not love. It means we have not surrendered them to Jesus.
Surrendering our children and other loved ones to Jesus is not an abdication of responsibility. Just as with our virtues, which I wrote about last week, it is essential for us to surrender our relationships, especially with the people we care about. Jesus – and not us – must be Lord over them. We should allow him to inspire and shape our thoughts and actions in regard to our loved ones. If we do not submit to him in this way, then sin rules our relationships and infects even the best of our intentions.
Therefore, all relationships, especially our most cherished ones, must come under Jesus’ authority. We must seek his will in our dealings with those whom we love and not our own. When our relations with others do not come under his authority, we turn the people we care about into idols or use them as cover for our insecurities and end up causing them significant spiritual harm.
We must also forgo worry about our loved ones. Worry may seem like a harmless act, even a caring one, but actually worry is a negative force, deriving its energy from sin, not from God. Sin consumes its objects, which happens to us when we worry. Worry is a tyrant because in addition to eating up large amounts of our time and energy, it excludes God from our thoughts. It is difficult to stay our minds on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3) when we are preoccupied with worry.
Worry is also a manifestation of unbelief because Scripture calls us, time after time, to trust in God, to lay our cares before him and to leave them in his care. The apostle Paul, knowing how easy it is to fall into the habit of worry instead of turning to the Lord, tells us what to do in its place. He writes in the fourth chapter of his letter to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (vv. 6-7).
When we pray for those whom we love, instead of giving in to worry, we are surrendering them to the Lord. We are admitting we are not their savior, that we cannot save them, but that we do know who can and we take our concerns directly to him. When we don’t surrender our loved ones – and instead keep our concerns about them in our own incompetent hands – we end up teaching those whom we care deeply about the same sinful habits to which we are in bondage. We pass on to them the toxic habits of pride, idolatry and unbelief instead of faith in our Lord, Jesus.
In her book, Restoring the Christian Soul, Leanne Payne teaches the importance of prayer when we have concerns about those whom we love or care for. She counsels that we must forsake reacting to problems, which she refers to as the “subjective position,” and instead take up the “objective position” – turning to God in listening prayer, asking for his insight into what is really going on and for instructions about what to do next. This kind of objectivity frees us from reacting out of fear, anger or pride and helps us to see, from God’s point of view, what the real issues are. God will show us how to respond once we understand what lies at the heart of the problem. When we worry we render ourselves blind and useless.
Only God can guide and heal those whom we love, as well as ourselves. When we do not surrender our loved ones to him we are, in effect, putting ourselves in his place. This will only have disastrous effects on the people we care about – as well as on us. Here are some suggestions for surrendering those whom you love to Jesus:
- Stop reacting to problems your loved ones have, or you have with them, and start praying, asking for God’s objective view of the situation.
- Be proactive: pray with your spouse daily (or on you own if you are no longer married) for and about your children. Ask the Lord to equip you so that you are parenting faithfully. Also ask him to show you in what ways you are not. Don’t be defensive about your shortcomings because that won’t do anyone any good. Just listen.
- Pray with your children about injuries or hurts they have encountered, helping them to turn them over to the Lord and to expect and welcome his healing. Teach them how to petition and wait on him. Ask God to show you how to pray for them – and pray accordingly as they sleep and while they are away at school.
- Ask God to show you any way in which you have not surrendered those whom you love to him.
Next week: Losing control over our resources.
Claudia, today’s message really hits home to those of us with children still in the nest and to those of us with children who have grown up and have children of their own. As you said, our own pride can be such a relationship destroyer when we want our children to succeed in order to make ourselves “look good” in the eyes of the world. Been there, done that.
I loved your admonition to stop worrying. When I lift my petitions up to God and still find myself in the worry cycle, I find it so helpful to start thanking Him for everything in sight. Sometimes it is just to have clean water as I am rinsing the dishes. The cycle soon breaks and I can just leave my worry where it belongs, with my awesome Heavenly Father. Thank you, Claudia, for your blog. I look forward to it every Tuesday. Lynn
Lynn, thank you so much for your comment today. As I sat down last week to write this post I thought I would be summing up the series, but the Lord had other plans. He caught me worrying about my son and then directed me to write about losing control in regard to our loved ones. Out poured the post which was published today as I prayed about this area of my life where I’ve got some more “losing control” to do. Although there is much more that can be said about this topic of surrender to the Lord, I think I’ve got one more area to address (surrendering our resources — next week’s post) and then it will be time to sum up.
I love what you wrote about how giving thanks can short-circuit the worry cycle. I, too, find it so helpful to give thanks to the Lord when I fall into a rut of worry. Claudia
Many thanks for this fine series on Control and why we need to give it up. A recent News and Observer article on Triangle Atheists cited the messages that the atheist society has posted across the state. One reads: We’ve Got the Whole World in OUR Hands. Your series serves as a sober reminder of how arrogantly pathetic that message is.
Lynn, your response here finds a deep sense of agreement with me. Having children is an act of faith, not a career achievement. Faith requires surrender, not prideful boasting.
Claudia, I have really enjoyed this series on Losing Control. Like Lynn, I look forward to them each week. I am one who seems to always be giving their children to the Lord and taking them back! I love what you said about asking God for His objective view of the situation. Getting His perspective is what I need to do! He is teaching me about humility, trust, patience and knowing that He loves them more than I ever could and His plan for them is perfect.
Alyce — I so appreciate your comment. We all need to be reminded that the Lord “loves [our children] more than [we] ever could and His plan for them is perfect.” Amen!