Some may say that being in control or wanting to be in control is natural. That if it’s our life and future, then we have the right to take control. Others may say that control is just another word for planning—being organized and forward-thinking. I remember thinking that my intense, planner-loving, type A heart was just that—that the reason I was so set on planning my life’s outcome was because I cared about my future. Those who said things like, “Oh well, it’s God’s timing” often rubbed me the wrong way. (Can someone say red flag?) How could people not care about their lives enough to take some action and control to ensure it all panned out?
But in all reality, I had bitten into the same piece of fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the garden. I had traded in God’s beautiful design for my life for the forbidden fruit of control. It looked promising, but ultimately it separated me from God and His perfect plan.
From Genesis to Revelation, we read about humanity’s tendency to turn away from God and take matters into their own hands—and the tragic consequences that inevitably follow. One of Adam’s sons, Cain, was possessed by jealousy and sought to control a situation that had gone awry, culminating in the murder of his own brother (Genesis 4). The people of Babel craved control and power over their own destinies and built a tower to the skies, only to be divided and scattered by God (Genesis 11). In Exodus the Israelites who were so graciously liberated from slavery by God through Moses almost immediately abandoned their divine rescuer in favor of empty idols (Exodus 32). Jonah refused to minister to Nineveh when God called him and tried his very best to edit God’s master plan, only to find himself in the belly of a great fish (Jonah 1).
These were all people who knew God, who had seen His goodness and power to save, who had every reason to trust Him. But they still tried to grab control for themselves.
Have you been there before? Have you told yourself that you trust God with your life but in the same breath turned around and insisted on your own way? Have you struggled to hold on to control, only to be left feeling defeated and frustrated with God when your plans didn’t pan out? I think we all have. I know I have.
But here’s the good news. Here’s the beauty among the ashes, the hope among the chaos. You and I were never meant to have control over our lives—even if your plan and dream seems to have your name all over it. You and I are not powerful enough or good enough to direct our lives. Yes, friend—that is good news, though it might seem like a hard pill to swallow. Why? Because— let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment here—we are utterly hopeless without God. We are sinful human beings. We were designed from the very beginning to need God. We were created from the ground up to depend on Him. Because of the gospel, we are not only saved from the consequences of sin but restored to a chance to live according to that beautiful, original plan— trusting and depending on our loving Father. That’s what makes our neediness such unexpected good news—God Himself is our sufficiency, and He loves us enough to write a better story than we ever could.
I mean, think about it: Isn’t it a blessing that we don’t have to control our lives? That we don’t have to toil, run ourselves ragged, and frustrate ourselves day in and day out? That we actually have God Himself as our designer, and that He gave us the beautiful gifts of surrender and trust?
Every time I start to close my fists and vie for control, I’m reminded of this truth in Proverbs 16:9, where King Solomon wrote, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Even the world’s wisest man attempted to write his own story, under the faulty perception that he was in control. But God showed him the truth—that there was only one Lord. William McKane said this about Solomon’s revelation: “A man may plan his road to the last detail, but he cannot implement his planning, unless it coincides with Yahweh’s plan for him.”
Planning isn’t a sin. A desire to strategize and look forward to our future isn’t a bad thing. The error, however, is when we dig our heels in and fight for personal control over our stories instead of trusting God. What happens then is we, consciously or subconsciously, set ourselves up as lord when there is only one true Lord. Life instantly becomes more about what we want to do as the masters of our own fate rather than following our heavenly Father’s will.
A life is nothing without the purpose and plans of the Lord. The full life that Jesus promises in John 10 does not come from you and me grasping at control. It does not come from us insisting on our own way. The full, abundant life available in Christ comes from surrendering our story at the foot of the cross. It comes by way of realizing our need for someone greater to write our story because we were not created to do it on our own. And if you ask me, that’s pretty beautiful.
When we surrender to God, it might feel like we’re making a sacrifice – after all, it feels like we’re being asked to give up quite a lot! But genuine surrender always involves an awesome trade. You get to trade away the burdens of performance, legalism, and control, and instead, receive what I can only describe as profound peace, real joy, and a deeply satisfying purpose. The best is yet to come when we surrender.
If you’re weary, frustrated, and disappointed by your attempts to control your own story and you’re ready to try the better way – then Surrender Your Story is for you.
Adapted from Surrender Your Story: Ditch the Myth of Control and Discover Freedom in Trusting God by Tara Sun. Copyright © 2022 by Tara Sun. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.
Through the Truth Talks with Tara podcast, her Instagram community, and other resources, Tara Sun passionately teaches women of all ages how to know, love, and live God’s Word for themselves. She shows how to break down God’s Word into understandable pieces, while also adding an artistic flare through her digital art. Tara is married to her high school sweetheart, Michael, and is a mom to their newest addition, Hunter. You’ll find them living and serving the Lord in Oregon.