Sharon Hodde Miller: Letting Go of Control

“Whenever you reach for control to fix something, it only breaks it more. It’s a deal that will always betray us.”

Sharon Hodde Miller is teaching pastor at Bright City Church in Durham, North Carolina, which she co-founded with her husband, Ike. She is a blogger and regular contributor at SheWorships.com, Propel Women, CT Women and She Reads Truth, and has written for Relevant, Christianity Today and (in)courage. Her latest book is The Cost of Control: Why We Crave It, the Anxiety It Gives Us and the Real Power God Promises (Baker). The following are snippets of our interview with her.

It is biblical to desire stability. One of God’s first acts was to order the chaos. Before sin entered the world, the garden was peaceful. And so our desire for stability, our desire for peace and rest, is not wrong. Because of sin, we are broken and we now try to return to it, but the mechanism we use is control. We believe that control, instead of God, can grant us that stability.

Over the last few years, pastors have been confronted with a lot of division in the church, a lot of polarization. Early on, I had the mistaken belief that if I just gave people enough Scripture, if I just explained it to them the right way, it would change their minds and they would wake up and understand. What I was really trying to do was use knowledge and information to control the people in my church.

I think we do this a lot. We think, If I just download the right facts into somebody’s brain, then they’re going to see things the way I see them. This, at its heart, is a control issue. What I discovered over time was that trying to control others in this way does not work. And so I had to really wrestle through that and get to the point of realizing I can only teach Scripture to the best of my ability. I can cast the seeds, so to speak, but I’m not responsible for the soil. That is between them and God.

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Control is a devil’s deal. Whenever you reach for control to fix something, it only breaks it more. It’s a deal that will always betray us. What ultimately helped me to really push back on that impulse was realizing it’s not just that I don’t have control, it’s that I will break things when I try to have control. That it will create anxiety in me. It will fracture my relationships with other people. I finally started to understand, I have a choice here. Is this really what I want?

In those moments when you are feeling anxious, pause for a moment. Ask yourself, Am I trying to control something right now that God has not given me to control? If the answer is yes, then the next question you should ask is, Do I want to continue feeling this way? For me, the answer is no. And that is when I have a choice to make: I can continue to try to control this person, or this situation, and just feel awful, or, I can surrender this to God and entrust it all to him.