Giving Up Control


by Barry Ham

The prophet Isaiah proclaims to God that “we are the clay, You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand” (Isa. 64:8). I envision myself on a potter’s wheel with God trying to shape me into something magnificent. However, because I can’t see what He is making and I don’t enjoy the shaping process, I am like clay that somehow manages to climb off the wheel. In doing that, I become just a blob of clay on the table. And yet, I then complain about the fact that I am a blob. And of course, I blame God.

We are encouraged to consider it joy when we face trials because they actually test our faith, which produces perseverance, which in turn produces character, which leads to hope (see James 1:2; Rom. 5:4). In the middle of difficulties it is very easy to forget that one of God’s purposes for us is to shape our character. And yet, we fight God for control.

I love the following quote by Nicole Kidman to Tom Cruise in the movie Days of Thunder: “Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac! Nobody knows what’s going to happen next…. Nobody controls anything. Now you’ve gotten a glimpse of that and you’re scared.” Her quote is so profoundly true. And yet, I make my plans, I schedule my vacations, I fill slots in my appointment schedule, I speak about the future as though I were in control because…I have to confess, it is because I like the illusion. But if I am truly going to trust the One who made me to direct and bless my life, I have got to stay on that potter’s wheel. God’s instructions promise that if I will cling to Him and His Word, I will “produce much fruit.” But apart from Him, the results of my efforts are likely to be meager (see John 15:5).

C.S. Lewis writes, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” He goes on to say in another work, “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become.”!

I fully realize that we have all experienced situations that just don’t make sense—logically, humanly. We may have had friends or family betray us, finances fall apart, cars break down, you fill in the blank. Stuff happens that overwhelms us. We just don’t get it. But God does.

Sometimes those difficult circumstances will make sense tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or perhaps not until we cross over to the other side of eternity. God is not limited to our time-framed existence. He is able to see all of the chronological scenes of our lives as…now. And He knows what is going on and why. It is my choice whether I want to connect and anchor myself to the God who made me or whether I want to crawl off the potter’s wheel and take my chances on my own. But I must admit—as a lump of clay on the table, I don’t do very well.

So what could life look like if I turned over the steering wheel of my life and let God drive? Giving up control to Him doesn’t mean that I am released from responsibility, that I have no interests in the day-to-day activities of life. It actually leads to the exact opposite. If I began to live—to think, feel, and act as though God is in control of my life—how different might it look? If I am willing to walk with God with unwavering trust, I will be able to live my purpose out under any circumstances

While those circumstances are not always pleasant (sometimes they are beyond miserable), we have a choice whether we allow them to bury us or not. Yes, we can let them fall on us and crush us or we can climb up on top of the pile. It will give us a better vantage point on our life. The choice of perspective is ours.

The apostle Paul encourages us to do everything without grumbling and complaining and make a decision to work at whatever it is we are doing, not as though we are doing it to please some person, but as though we are working for the Lord (see Phil. 2:14; Col. 3:23).

Giving up control and trusting our present as well as our future with a God we can’t presently see is easier said than done. But it is essential if we are to move from where we are to where we hope to be. It is not a simple flip of the switch though. It is a day-by-day decision—and, without a doubt, some days are easier than others.


Shared with permission from Living on Purpose: Knowing God’s Design for Your Life by Barry Ham