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Let me start by saying that these “5 Surrender Steps to Freedom” aren’t intended as a check list. We’re focusing on one per week, but I imagine that you might need to circle back and remind yourself to keep going on the first steps. Speaking of which, how are you doing on these two?
In these posts, along with the introductory one, titled, “How to Be Free of that Other Control Girl“, we’ve been focusing on our own heart responses, when faced with the other Control Girl in our lives. But now it’s time to switch gears. Today we’re going to talk about not caving in a controlling person.
What if I’m Intimidated?
I think we would all agree that giving in to someone else’s sin is never the answer. Passively letting a Control Girl burn a path of destruction through the middle of your life is not what God had in mind when he called you to freedom and fruitfulness.
But what if you’re intimidated by the other Control Girl? What if she is powerful and ferocious and terrifying?
Well, she probably is. But as we talk about not caving in to her, let me remind you of just how big God is. Picture Him in heaven, with the earth as his footstool. (Acts 7:49) Now picture your Control Girl before His throne. See how tiny she is? See how her bellowing voice gets swallowed up by His thunderous glory? He is God and she is not. Let’s keep that in mind.
I’ve been dialoguing with various readers, since this series began, about the controlling people in their worlds, and I’m noticing a common thread. The person writing me feels intimidated. She feels overwhelmed by and afraid of the person causing her so much heartache, tension, and angst. She doesn’t want to, but ends up cowering under the other Control Girl’s demanding, direct tone. She feels stuck in an endless cycle of trying to please someone that simply won’t be pleased.
Leah–Rachel’s older sister, and Jacob’s first wife, felt that way.
In my Bible study, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, I talked about Leah’s out-of-control situation. She had a horrible, evil father who dressed her up as a bride and snuck her into Jacob’s bed on his wedding night. The next morning, Jacob was appalled to find her—not her sister Rachel—in his bed.
Leah spent years trying to appease Jacob, and win his love and approval by bringing baby after baby to lay before him. But it was never enough. Jacob was never pleased. And Leah was utterly miserable. Here’s what I wrote in Leah’s chapter on page 137:
I believe Leah could have birthed twenty sons, and Jacob would have remained as detached and uncaring… Leah reminds me of a little child who keeps bringing her lunch money to the bully, longing to be accepted. Or a battered wife who keeps setting hot meals and baskets of clean laundry before her abusive husband, desperate for his affection. [Or a distraught daughter-in-law, who keeps caving in to her controlling mother-in-law’s ever demand, craving her approval.]
We want to shake this victimized person and say, “Why do you let them control you like this?”
Though I have such compassion for Leah and all that she went through, I want to learn how to avoid her mistake. How can we keep that other Control Girl in our lives from enslaving us with her demands?
Here is, I believe, the key: We must stake our worth on what God thinks, not on what the other Control Girl thinks.
Let me say that again. By staking my worth on what the other Control Girl in my life thinks of me, I give her control instead of God.
Here’s what I wrote on page 138:
The more desperate we are to be accepted, the more control we give to others. We don’t mean to give them control, but unwittingly we do when we allow their opinions to matter so much. We give them what they want, so that they will give us what we want: the relief of finally being accepted. Like Leah, we repeatedly bring our gifts and sacrifices to our new master, saying, “Maybe this time [she] will notice. Maybe this time [she] will appreciate me.”
But our gifts are never enough. Our master is never pleased. We wither under [her] glaring scorn, or self-loath after we don’t measure up. Our so-called path to freedom is lined with self-defeating patterns and destructive relationships, all because we let someone else’s opinion matter more than God’s. Why do we allow ourselves to be controlled in this way? And how can we ever break free?
Letting God be God
If we are constantly caving in to that other Control Girl—either because we’re intimidated, trying to please her, or just staying out of her way—we keep ourselves from being available to fully surrender to God. For how can we give God control, if we’re already given it to someone else?
Picture your life’s steering wheel. Who’s hands are on the wheel? Who is driving your life and giving it direction? Is it God? Or is that other Control Girl behind the wheel? She has no place there. And caving in to her just to “keep the peace” is not healthy for you or her.
Sometimes giving God control begins with taking control back from the person we’ve wrongly given in to. Make no mistake, your Control Girl will not be pleased. But she is not God, remember? Giving God His rightful place might involve politely but firmly insisting that someone else exits the driver’s seat. Consider the following examples:
- For years, Audra has lived in bondage to her mother, trying desperately to please her. She’s even paid her mom’s mortgage. But now, Audra was facing financial challenges. Continuing the payments would mean going into debt. For Audra, giving God control meant breaking free from her mom’s controlling grip by refusing to pay the mortgage. Her mom was irate and didn’t speak to her for months, but amazingly Audra has found peace by surrendering both her finances and her mom to God.
- Ana’s mother-in-law has been a Bible study leader for years and is deeply devoted to prayer. Because of this, she has a tendency to speak for God. She says things like, “I prayed about it and this is what you should do.” She has given Ana instruction on everything from choosing a doctor to choosing a church. Recently, Ana’s mother-in-law stated that she is sure God doesn’t want Ana to have another baby. But Ana longs for another child, and senses that this desire for a baby is from the Lord. Her husband is in agreement. Yes, there will be sacrifice—especially financially, but Ana has decided to listen to God instead of her mother-in-law.
- Grace’s older sister has planned everything from her fifth birthday party to her first baby shower. For as long as Grace can remember, her sister has been there, calling the shots. And Grace’s husband is sick of it. Now that their due date is only weeks away, Grace’s husband has asked for a two month break from Grace’s sister. “We can go visit her, occasionally,” he said. “But I don’t want her here. She makes you nervous and unsettled, and I want you to have some peace.” Grace is terrified to put up this new boundary for her pushy sister, but she has agreed to support her husband’s decision, because she wants to honor God in her marriage.
“We give control to the person whose opinion matters most to us. For each of us, this person needs to be God.” (Control Girl, p. 139)We give control to the person whose opinion matters most to us. For each of us, this person needs to be God. https://wp.me/p7IZQm-6qB Click To Tweet
When we put people in God’s place and make them our master, they will consistently lead us into disordered priorities, painful relationships, and personal brokenness. They constantly demand more than we can give, or insist that we satisfy their insatiable appetites. But God is exactly the opposite of this.
When we make God our Master, He causes our lives to settle into order, our relationships to flourish, and our hearts to heal. God doesn’t demand that we satisfy Him; instead He satisfies us by providing peace, security, and joy.
This Week’s Assignment
How do you need to give God control, by refusing to cave in to that other Control Girl? Work through these questions, either on your own or with a trusted, godly spouse or friend:
- In what ways does the other Control Girl in your life compete for God’s place and authority? How are you currently putting her opinion above God’s? What would putting God first look like in this situation? How is fear or insecurity holding you hostage?
- What are some indicators that you care more about what the other Control Girl thinks than God? Find at least one truth about God’s acceptance of and love for you to meditate on—either from God’s Word, a song, or my Meditation Cards. Leah’s cards might be especially helpful. Also, here’s my Control Girl Playlist. Review your truth each day, and especially when you’re confronted by the other Control Girl, who wants control.
- Make a plan for giving God control. How will you need to stop caving in to the Control Girl in your life? Be specific. And be wise. You may need to put some time or space between you and her. You’ll probably need to enlist the support of some godly, reasonable friends (a spouse would be best) who will help you hold firm on your boundaries. Put a schedule together (with dates, so you don’t back out) to put your plan into action.
- Keep this Surrender Step in balance by reviewing the other three posts (see below).
Breaking free from that other Control Girl in your life involves not becoming just like her (as we discovered in the first three posts in this series). But breaking free also involves not caving in.
Surrendering to God means giving Him—not another person—control.
- Read the book, Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible! You can read a free sample here.
- Read the other posts in this series:
- Gather some friends for a Control Girl Bible study. If you’re interested in leading a group, we have everything you need here.
- Download the meditation cards which seem most applicable, or buy the coloring book.
- Listen to the Control Girl playlist.
- Subscribe here to have each post in this series delivered to your email.