Why Christianity is Tough for Control Freaks

Why Christianity is Tough for Control Freaks

As I write this, I’m recovering from surgery I had Monday to remove a (benign) cyst that was discovered just a couple of weeks ago.

I won’t mince words…I was an absolute wreck leading up to the surgery. The thought of “going under” (general anesthesia) was terrifying to me. (If you’re wondering why someone would be scared of being totally unconscious and at the mercy of other people’s skills and decisions, you’re probably not a candidate for fully appreciating this post.)

You see, I’m a control freak. Like many other “type A” people, I find comfort in taking charge and relying on myself for outcomes. There is no level of being more out of control than being under general anesthesia.

The night before surgery, in between tears, I grabbed a notepad next to my bed and started writing the things that scared me:

“Won’t wake up after surgery.”

“Will wake up during surgery.”

“Will be awake during surgery but no one will know and I’ll feel everything.”

“Surgeon will make mistake, causing permanent damage.”

“Surgeon will find something unexpectedly bad inside.”

“Going to die!”

As I reviewed my dramatic list of fears, my eyes drifted to the bottom of my notepad where the following verse was printed: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).

I felt like I had been socked in the gut with spiritual guilt. What kind of Christian am I that I can’t simply “cast” these cares on God? Aren’t I supposed to take comfort in knowing there is a God who loves me? Shouldn’t I just “trust” God about each and every thing that comes my way?

It’s funny that atheists often claim Christians believe in God because they want to (“wish fulfillment,” according to Freud) or because it’s comforting. This couldn’t be further from the truth for a control freak! Christianity is a tough religion for those of us burdened with a need to be in total control. Atheism would actually be easier for me because, if true, it would mean there is no higher power in control of my life. Just me.

I am a Christian because I believe Christianity is true, not because it’s what I find comforting.

Just for fun today, let’s consider how discomforting the truth of Christianity can be for control freaks!

 

We have no say in how the world works.

Control freaks like to have a say in everything. Remember how God asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” That was God’s not-so-subtle way of reminding us that only He gets to decide how the world works. If I were Job, I might have accidentally replied to God’s rhetorical question, “I wasn’t there, but I would like to have been invited.” And then I would have been in big trouble. Good thing I wasn’t Job.

We control freaks have to get comfortable with the understanding that how the world works is outside of our sphere of influence and understanding. Ultimately, we are totally out of control, and God is totally in control. Some people might like that thought, but for the control freak it’s a reality that requires uncomfortable acceptance. I don’t make the rules based on what I like, what I want, or what makes sense to me. God does.

 

Prayer is totally unpredictable from the human perspective.

The Bible gives us very little information on how prayer “works.” We know we’re supposed to pray, but we have no way of knowing what God will do in response. Prayer is a very difficult concept for control freaks! By nature, we want to control processes and outcomes. With prayer, we can’t control either. It’s about total dependence on God.

We control freaks would rather depend on ourselves for everything in life. Given the seeming ambiguity of prayer, it can be tempting to avoid it and spend more time relying on ourselves to solve problems. Prayer has to be a very conscious effort for the control freak. We have to believe that it’s important despite not having a clear understanding of outcomes.

 

God didn’t give us all the answers we want in the Bible.

I want answers for everything. Knowledge is my friend, ambiguity my foe. I would be as happy as a pig in mud if God made it so there were 10,000 specific steps to go through to get all the answers about life. That would put knowledge in my control. Some religions offer that, and I can easily see the lure of such black-and-white processes. But Christianity never promises such specific stepping stones to comprehensive knowledge.

By believing that Christianity is true, control freaks are forced to accept the ambiguity that comes from the Bible not giving us every answer we would like to have. I wish the Bible was written in more of a FAQ style – a nice question and answer format that methodically covers all questions about existence. Apparently, God didn’t think that was necessary. The Book we have is the one He thinks is sufficient.

 

I think being a control freak can actually be a barrier to becoming a Christian for many people, for the reasons I just described. Our personalities greatly shape what we want to believe. That’s why it’s so important that we raise our kids with the right spiritual objective: searching for what is objectively true, outside of our subjective experience.

I’d love to hear from any fellow control freaks – how do you think this personality type impacts your faith?

19 Comments

  1. Jenn W on April 9, 2014 at 5:03 PM

    I didn’t realize how much of a control freak I was until I became a Christian. Giving up control is my #1 struggle. On a daily basis I have to remind myself to let go and let God. I’ve grown a lot in my faith since I recognized I am a control freak, I find myself in prayer a lot more than I used to, seeking help in giving up the need to have my hands in everything, the need to “just do it myself”. It’s a blessing and a curse. 😉



    • Natasha Crain on April 10, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      That’s a great point, Jenn! Realizing how difficult it is to give up control is one way we realize we have a problem in the first place. I love your perspective that it can be a blessing as well. Thanks for sharing that!



  2. skc on April 10, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    My struggle is how to know when things don’t turn out the way I hoped for or expected . . . is that my fault, my shortcomings, or my mis-understanding of God’s leading OR is it God doing His thing, expecting me to trust and wait on Him to make it all clear. I want to know if it is ME and evidence that I need to change/do something different or if it is GOD and I simply need to wait and trust. I guess as a control freak I tend to assume it must be ME – that my seeming lack of success (or forward progress) in a specific area is reflective of my own flaws and shortcomings and I need to step it up somehow. If I knew for sure it was God, then I could relax, but what if . . .

    And I can totally relate to the surgery thing. I had surgery for the first time myself last year and I was a wreck. I made my husband stay at the hospital and not leave the whole time (as if I could call for him or he come to me anytime during the procedure!).



  3. Rosann on April 10, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    I’m a fellow control freak raising my hand here. 🙂 loved reading this and so glad your surgery was a success.



  4. CaptainMommy on April 10, 2014 at 7:15 PM

    I’m a pseudo-control freak, although being an Army wife cured me of it…mostly. There were so many things that I COULDN’T control about our military life that I controlled anything I could. Now we are out of the military and our life, especially our finances, are completely in the hands of God (and the VA…ugh!).

    It stinks.

    I know that I can rely on God. I know that God will work everything out in His perfect time. But we have bills to pay, and deadlines. It’s very hard to find the balance between faith and reality.

    So glad I’m not alone in this!



  5. AllieM on April 10, 2014 at 9:22 PM

    I love this post. I had a similar experience. I was in my second trimester pregnant with twins. My right kidney wasn’t working properly due to a kidney stone. I had never had a kidney stone before prior to this, my second pregnancy. The first stone I passed in my first trimester. No pain meds… Thought I was miscarrying at first… So scary. Fast foward, and I’m about to go in to have the stone removed, with a possible stent to keep my kidney working properly. I was a mess as described above. The fear was almost crippling. I luckily was listening to a local Christian Radio Station the day prior to the procedure. As I’m driving the guest speaker was talking all about letting to of control and faith in God. For the life of me, I can’t remember the exact verse in the bible. Although, I’ve spent time trying to track it down since. In the instance I heard this discussion, I instantly felt a calm come over me. I knew God was working through that program at that particular moment. I knew my unborn children and myself would be safe. I felt God’s presence. My twins are now two. It’s crazy to look back on my journey to parenthood and see all of God’s plan.



    • Irene on February 25, 2016 at 7:33 AM

      In case you never found it or maybe you need it today as much as I do.

      Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).



  6. Dr Julian Kennedy on April 17, 2014 at 3:57 AM

    Appreciated your honesty and could identify with you as 12 days ago had hip replacement.



  7. Michele on April 18, 2014 at 6:52 PM

    I can totally relate. The Word instructs us to cast out cares on the Lord. I admit that it is often hard for me to do that. It really boils down to a matter of trust. I’m learning to exercise trust in God and realize that he is fully in control. Thank for sharing this.



  8. Esther on May 20, 2014 at 1:16 AM

    I totally agree as I reflect on the past few years of work. I just go where God leads even as I I would want to have control and stability in my job. But because I choose to spend to want to spend more time with my 3 young boys, I have had to do part time work for the past few years. God works in ways we cannot understand and so far God has never failed to provide for the family. PRAISE God



  9. Tara on July 9, 2014 at 2:38 AM

    I don’t like to consider myself a control freak, but I do like to make sure things go according to how I believe they should go. Anything that happens outside of that sphere makes my brain go haywire.
    While I don’t subscribe to the whole “Type A” psychology thing (psychology goes against the Bible), I believe that God has given us all different personalities and gifts within those personalities. It is then up to us and the Lord as to what we do with those personalities and gifts.
    People who like control could make good organisers, which could be great for a Sunday school, or home Bible study group. The possibilities are countless.
    Thanks for this post, it’s great to hear that I’m not the only one. lol



  10. Jonathan on September 12, 2014 at 9:14 AM

    This was helpful! Thanks Natasha!



  11. Tony on October 12, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    I think even God relinquishes control. I suppose He draws a line at times, but I think in reality that His focus is balance as opposed to the concept of control itself. It is people that make more of an issue of control due to their own compulsions, generally anxiety driven. Casting our cares upon Him simply relieves us of the need to control everything, but keep in mind that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is actually self control. I think His focus for us is the same as for Himself, to live our lives as sentient beings in harmony with one another. After all we are made in His image and likeness.



  12. Catherine on October 12, 2015 at 3:58 AM

    I never realised I was such a control freak…until I got kids. I have two beautiful children, firstborn boy age 4, newly added baby Lea of 4 months. Oh my word, the amount of control I find myself enforcing daily, freaked me the hell out. I just this morning, wrote a letter (therapy of sorts) to my husband on why I’m so depressed and anxious these days, all because I couldn’t/didn’t breastfeed my little girl how I wanted, for how long I wanted, the way I wanted. You see the problem here? I, I and I. So although I understand now why I’m so upset about this, doesn’t make it easier, to give over total control of my children’s’ wellbeing and future to God. Yes, I can do as much as I can, but the rest I need to let go, and let God, so to say.
    It’s very difficult to say the least. But a work in progress. Just when I’ve told myself to relax and let life runs it’s course a bit more than trying to control every single step I take, I freak out because I’m bathing my children 5 minutes later than I planned, or the kitchen needs to be cleaned before I can read to my son. The list of struggles are endless, but I’m so glad I’m not alone.



  13. Renee on November 10, 2015 at 9:46 AM

    Can you all pray for my family. I am a control freak as far as wanting to give up on God and act in the flesh when things are not going good or prayers “seem” to be unanswered. We moved to a very small town, where people like to “talk” and there are many cliques. Most people with young people have been here for many many years or they are temporary. Our daughter is struggling and made some mistakes as part of pre-teen peer pressure and a desperation to make friends. There are people who never even tried to get to know her/us but as soon as they could share gossip or create gossip, they had no problem mentioning our family name. It’s very hurtful, overwhelming and stressful to live like this as I lonely and sometime I feel like the “pink elephant in the middle of the room” when I am in a group setting with other moms. Can you PLEASE pray for us. Thank you.



  14. Harina on July 4, 2016 at 7:31 AM

    Wow! It’s like looking into a mirror. Especially the part about prayer. Take me to a verse where I feel like I am getting some sort of answer/response even if it may not apply exactly to my situation. I can interpret & misinterpret so that it makes sense or at least I can get some medicine because the Word is a panacea of sorts, delivering doses of relief all day every day. But prayer I equate to a question mark. I attempt to do it, lack the FAITH when I do it (because I’m seeing my insecurities and getting stuck on those), and then things remain the same. Nothing has changed and it’s so frustrating. So I keep it moving and turn to those sources that speak to me or speak back to me (songs, movies, sermons/messages,etc). But this is not addressing the heart issues and the faith issues I struggle with just the surface issues. And then recently, I had an experience where I finally found out just how OUT OF CONTROL I am and how BROKEN I am. These aren’t words that I capitalized because that’s common knowledge that we as Christians have about ourselves but because I’ve come to that from one experience and a reflection of multiple experiences where I tried to CONTROL and present myself as broken but not “that” BROKEN. But He isn’t done with me yet and He isn’t done with you either. This is just the point where a decision has to be made on whether you are ready to experience having a higher level of faith. It’s never too late to be who God has called you to be. And don’t let anyone or anything tell you otherwise. Prayer is essential and even if He doesn’t respond in the way that you would have liked or at the time you would like, He will respond. Just be patient, let go of the reigns, and above all HAVE FAITH.



  15. Jennifer Pepper Aguilera Salazar on September 11, 2017 at 7:29 AM

    Im at the gym at the moment, trying to get it together. Because if i an working out, eating right, going to work on time and all my clients are happy, the house is clean, my kid is making good grades, ect ect….. thrn Im ok right? Something painful happened a few months ago and I have been out of control trying to control. At the moment the realization of how bad I am and the gravity of what I am doing is alot. Pls pray for me.



  16. Cecilia Mccarns-Williams on November 1, 2017 at 6:11 AM

    Welp….
    I was looking up how to overcome being a control freak according to the bible and this came up. This post was very enlightening and thought provoking and I have to say true. I struggle with reading the bible because I am looking for the exact answer to my concern. I pray but I kinda talk around the issue with God. Sometime I am scared that the answer he is going to give me is the not the answer that I want. I love God, but I am working on trusting in him with my whole self. I have been trusting in me for far too long. Now I am having to repeat some steps in my life because I have been doing it wrong. I also have a failing marriage. I believe that God can change it but right now my struggle is how? How long? What’s steps are you taking to put it back together. Am I trying to hold on to something worthless? ( I read the bible and found the answer for that). This was helpful.

    Thanks.



  17. Danielle on March 30, 2018 at 3:37 PM

    I can relate with everything that you’re saying! The concept of “letting go” is absolutely terrifying for me. What if things don’t work out the way I want them to? What if I pray, but I don’t get an answer (or it’s not the answer I wanted)? What if, what if, what if. It seems like if I am able to solve all the “what if” questions I have, then I can be in control if the hypothetical situation ever arises. I completely agree with your statement about the 10,000 steps. I would happily join you as a pig in the mud! Unfortunately, this is not the reality of the Christian walk. Like you, I chose to follow Christ because I believe this is the true way to live. If I believe His way is the right way, and if He says that being a control freak is not possible in His way, then I have no choice but to uproot my habits of being a control freak. Not only does being a control freak cause tremendous amounts of mental and emotional strain, it prohibits me from seeing God work in my life. I cannot see His sovereignty, His power, or His love while trying to be in control of my life. I guess that means it’s time to “let go”!