One of the things I love most about God’s Word is that it can speak a fresh and unexpected message out of a passage that I’ve read many times.
One morning, the Holy Spirit took Jesus’ familiar words to a whole new level for me:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”Matthew 16:24-26 NIV
As I hovered over the verses, the Holy Spirit made it more personal by inserting a new word in just the right places:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves [control] and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to [control] their life will lose it, but whoever [surrenders] their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain [control] of the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
The word was so powerful that it seemed to take my breath away for a moment.
God had already been speaking to me for some time about how my desire to control the details and direction of my life was getting in the way of my trust in Him and my submission to Him.
The fear of not being in control had stolen my contentment, joy, and peace. So many opportunities and relationships had been strangled or suffocated due to the struggle for control.
The Lord had been directing me to practice putting my full trust in Him.
While I used to spend much of my energy worrying and controlling, God began teaching me to put all of that effort into trusting Him instead.
I sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me when I fell into my “default setting” of worry and control. I was learning to take those worrisome thoughts and turn them into prayers.
When things became particularly challenging, I started saying aloud, “I put my trust in You, Lord.” To this day, certain situations require that I say it again and again until I believe it and walk in it.
Yes, God had been stretching me, calling me to give up one area of control after another. As I continued to consider Matthew 16:24-26 in light of the word “control,” I sensed that the Lord was trying to show me something more, something deeper.
The word came again:
Deny yourself control… even over your very self.
I paused as a deep conviction settled on me.
While my desire to control people, circumstances and the future had been decreasing, I saw in that moment how I had been exerting far too much energy trying to control myself.
The struggle to get my weaknesses, sin, and brokenness under control was palpable.
I realized that I was trying to do this in my own power to please God and to satisfy my perfectionist drive. I was getting nowhere, to be honest.
God whispered to my heart:
When it comes to your sin and your weakness, you want control. You war with yourself trying to gain control. Yield to Me. Let Me control and lead. Let me fix what is broken and submit yourself to Me. You cannot make your flesh submit to you. Your flesh can only submit to Me because I am Lord.
The futility of my attempts to control myself became so apparent in that moment. How often had I tried to manage my sin and only made things worse? The tighter I grasped for control, the more I seemed to spiral.
Your sin comes from brokenness. Your longtime wounds have taught you to hide, to numb, to control, to rebel. Old patterns of self-soothing and self-protecting will not lay down or submit to you. You are a harsh taskmaster for yourself, but I am a loving Savior and even the most wounded and hardened of hearts have submitted to Me. I can heal your broken places. Let Me have My way in you.
What could I say, except, “Yes, Lord. Have your way in me”? I began to pray:
Holy Spirit, help me to yield this new area of control to you– I surrender myself and all of my brokenness. Guide me and remind me each day to put my full effort into trusting You.
Friends, as I look back over my life, I cannot think of one time that I regret surrendering to God and yielding control to Him. Was it difficult and painful? Indeed it was.
Did I take it back untold times, having to surrender again and again? You bet.
But this I’ve discovered: as we lean into our powerlessness and His sovereignty, we experience new levels of freedom and joy.
Once upon a time, I would have thought that losing control was the worst thing that could happen to me. Now I know that releasing it was what I needed most.
A version of this article was originally published on Jamie DeSilvia and can be found here.
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