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Do you think of control as a positive or negative? Your answer probably depends on who is in control. Is it you, someone else, or God?
All else equal I’d prefer to be in control. But I’m probably better off when I trust God because He is both good and in control.
When Control is Unhealthy
There are many different ways control plays out in our lives. Are you in-control, out-of-control, God-controlled, or self-controlled? Any of these could be positive or negative, depending on the perspective you choose.
Control is unhealthy when you force or manipulate from a place of fear. Relying on your own ingenuity apart from God doesn’t usually work well. Doubting God but acting anyway didn’t turn out well for Moses (Numbers 20:10-13).
This kind of control is unhealthy in at least these two situations:
- When you hold onto something too hard
- When you hold onto something too long
Holding Too Hard
Some things in life are delicate. A death grip doesn’t work. If you turn to something or someone in desperation, you might cling too quickly or too intensely. Your relationship with God or others will probably suffer.
Don’t make anything, including your own way of doing things, more important than God intended. Using food, alcohol, sex, grades, status, money, people – anything really – beyond God’s intended use is destructive. You might harm the thing, the other person, or yourself.
Holding Too Long
Some things in life are temporary. A permanent grip doesn’t work. Some things you can’t control; you have to let them go. You can try to force something temporary to be permanent, but that’s probably going to destroy it. You’ll suffer a loss either way.
You have to know when to cut your losses. Accept what you’ve already lost. Move forward to the next good thing to come into your life. Recognize the good things you already have.
When Control is Healthy
God is in control, so control can’t be all bad. Control is healthy when motivation to act comes from love and faith.
There are certainly situations when a lack of control is unhealthy. Control in this context is acting when it is the right thing to do. Passivity would be sinful (James 4:17). Control is healthy in at least these two situations:
- When you act like God
- When you cling to what is good
Act Like God
Some things in life are forever. Protect what is valuable. Step into the situation and be responsible. Have the discipline (self-control) to do what is right. Self-control is the same as letting God be in control and aligning yourself with what He wants (Ephesians 5:1-2).
When God’s Spirit is in control, the law doesn’t apply.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
Cling to What is Good
Some things in life are worthy. A wimpy grip doesn’t do them justice. Pursue and lay hold of whatever is good. Consider for example: wisdom, a wife, and a mature faith (Proverbs 4:7; 18:22, Philippians 3:12).
Your faith is valuable; don’t trade it for anything. To increase healthy control you must also decrease unhealthy control.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.Romans 12:9 NIV
Control can be understood as either right action or wrong action. The next time you have the opportunity to act, check yourself: Am I acting in love and faith? Is what I’m about to do helpful or harmful?
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.