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?

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Comments

  1. 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. ;)

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

  4. CaptainMommy says:

    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. 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.

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

  7. 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. 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. 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

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