How to keep control from destroying your peace

As a single parent, many aspects of your life are completely out of control. In fact, if you have been divorced, what you have done is that you’ve tried to take control of a situation or a relationship that was toxic and out of control.

You can choose control to escape uncertainty, defend against pain and keep yourself from feeling afraid. We often see control as a way to bring peace, but it leads to the opposite direction. Control is a counterfeit of peace. Control destroys peace.

When you are in the midst of pain and struggle, you naturally don’t want to wait for the pain you feel to subside. By instinct, you want to get out of pain and struggle quickly. You tend to want to take the rein of control and get out of discomfort as quickly as possible to finally have a sense of peace. You then convince yourself that achieving certain things will bring you peace, like finding a mate, having more money, getting your kids to stop acting up, etc. But all these things are natural reactions, and this kind of control does not bring lasting peace. It is simply an illusion of peace.

So how do we let go of the illusion of control when it feels so counterintuitive when we are hurting, confused and disillusioned?

Control can be learned.
Using her family history as a case study, single mom Marisa discusses how a chain of events in a family can lead to control and make people develop the habit of trying to control things and people around them. This trend can go on from generation to generation.

She shares how the death of her maternal great-grandparents made her grandfather, who became an orphan at the early age of 16, tried to control his family because he did not want to feel the kind of pain he felt as an orphan boy again. She explains how her grandfather’s control made her mom learn the habit of controlling herself and things to avoid getting into trouble. “So, that created the feeling of “I have got to control, so I don’t get into trouble,” and that got passed down,” she says.

Fast forward to Marisa’s life and marriage, the control trend showed up again. She says, “I need to be well in control of myself because if you do not control, you don’t know where the next anything will come from.” But despite all the control, she found out that her marriage started breaking, and there was trauma and drama everywhere, then her husband died. She now asks herself, “I’m supposed to be well controlled and able to escape all of these hardships because I did everything right. So why now did I find myself completely out of control with everything?”

But instead of accepting that she couldn’t control anything, she did the logical thing that most of us would do - be more controlling. As for Merissa, she tightened up things and started controlling her kids always to say and do the right thing, not to experience pain anymore, but that is an illusion. So therefore, we see the same pattern of control similar to that of her grandfather.

Robert believes that so many single parents struggle with this kind of control Marisa explained when they were married. It even becomes intense during those moments when the wheels start coming off in their marriages. Then, they become controlling by trying to fix things like their partners’ shortcomings or weaknesses. “None of all the control I try to exhibit ever brought me a sense of peace,” says Robert.

Control your thoughts, not people
One lesson Merissa learned is drawn from what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “take every thought captive.” She believes that we are supposed to control what is in our heads and how we act. But instead, we try to control people around us. So, we try to make people a little bit better so that we are not hurt or to feel better. “But that is defeating as well because if I could control him (her late husband), then I would be responsible for his behavior,” she says. The struggle to control yourself is enough; why try to be responsible for what someone else is doing?

How to find peace when God says wait and see
Kimberly also mentions how being a preacher’s kid and the kind of control that comes with it affected her and influenced how she later started controlling her kids as a single mom to act right, just as she was controlled. She admits that although she has learned to let go of her controlling behavior, she sometimes wants to grip it again. This brought her to the realization during her single mom days that she was not the one in control, but God was in control.

To explain what it means to wait on God and allow Him to take control of our struggles instead of trying to be in charge, Kim reads a snippet from an article she got online about loss. A profound statement from the writer goes thus, “it was actually when I allowed myself to sit in the midst of the tension of my questions, be loved and supported, feel the emotions I was feeling and ask God to meet me where I was that I began to reconcile the faith and logic that waged war within me... I reluctantly let God show me who He really is instead of who I want Him to be for me.”

What peace means to Kim is sitting with God and surrendering all her struggles to Him. “Sometimes God says just come sit with me. Let me be who I really am, instead of us trying to mold Him into what we want Him to be,” she says.

Kim, however, adds that surrendering our control to God is not what we achieve overnight. Although it was not an easy thing to do for her, it’s the greatest place she ever got to. But it is essential not to get carried away but always go back to the place of total surrender to God because “it’s really easy to want to take up control and say, “I’ve got this Jesus; You just sit there, and I’ll come when I need You,” Kim adds.

In the article Kim read, what jumped out at Robert is the ability to sit amid the tension of one’s questions. “That is not to just positive-speak your way into peace,” he says. Robert believes that one of the major ways of letting go of control is facing your fear and pain, paying attention to them, and bringing them to God. We shouldn’t just hand over things to God and move on. We have a role to play in our journey towards finding peace. “We can’t bring the questions, thoughts that go through our minds, the fears, the wheels coming off unless we acknowledge that,” Robert adds.

Grief, a pathway to peace
Robert also identifies being patient in the place of grief as a way to attain peace. Grief is a process, and if we’re not in a hurry to leave it, we will find peace. “Grief is important. It serves us. It’s never fun, but it’s the pathway to peace,” Robert adds.

Kim agrees that we should not rush out of grief because “it comes back until we deal with it.”

Merissa also confirms the necessity of sitting in grief and, at the same time, with God. “There is something magical when we can sit in grief, tension and also at the same time sit with God and bring and bring Him in,” she adds. However, bringing God in, according to Merissa, should not be to whine to Him. Instead, it should be an avenue for surrendering to God’s will and acknowledging that He knows what we are going through, and through it all, he wants the best for us. “At the end of the day, peace is all about trusting God. Peace begins and ends with God,” says Robert.

Here’s what Jesus said about peace:
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33 MSG).

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 16:33 NIV).

What Robert understands about these scriptures is that peace is not a feeling; it is a position, posture, or intention.

Waiting on God for peace and taking action
Merissa gives an example of King David and his stories about how he demonstrated patience in some situations. Firstly, David waited for years to become king even after God had anointed him to succeed Paul. So, even though he had the opportunity to kill Saul, who was the major obstruction for him from ascending the throne. He refused and said God would take his life when it was time. But Saul, on the other hand, was haunting David to take his life. “That seems torturing. He dragged on and on, and it didn’t look peaceful,” Marissa says.

A similar thing happened when one of his daughters was raped by one of his sons. He didn’t do anything about it when he was told. Eventually, Absalom took matters into his own hands and killed his brother, who committed the sinful act, ran away, and came back to take over David’s kingdom, and David was booted again. “I think there are places where we should revere David for His patience but at times, should he have stepped up and acted? “

But sometimes, we don’t know when to act.
According to Merissa, “Sometimes we’re just saying, God I didn’t act last time, so that didn’t work out, should I act here? So every situation it’s different.”

How do you know if you should act or not?
Merissa thinks every situation is so different that we cannot sometimes know if we should act or wait. However, she suggests that we need to ask God these questions to see if we should act or not, “God, am I doing this for me to control it, or am I doing this for you, or am I stepping out of faith here?”

For Robert, we need to understand if we act out of fear or faith. “Typically, when I ask out of fear, I try to control something. Walking through something and acting out of faith can look similar, but that foundation is based on God,” says Robert. Robert believes that fear causes us to move into quick action. Fear also creates an illusion that the situation we are dealing with is bigger than they truly are. But if we can step back, it gives us a perspective that helps the situation seem smaller. “The character that I see in God is a lot more respectful of time and restraint than an immediate reaction,” Robert adds.

Relax, don’t react

Merissa adds that having a gut reaction to something that somebody says that makes us mad isn’t the right way to act.

“Sometimes, 24 hours or 72 hours can make a difference. Take time to sit with it as uncomfortable as it is to not resolve anything in the moment”.

Kim realizes that there’s so much good even amid suckiness. There were so much great things happening while it sucked. She discovers that in her suckiness of single parenthood, she had a better relationship with her children. “I was lonely, scared, and felt like God had abandoned me, and yet really great things were happening too,” she adds.

Things to do to let go of control that destroys peace
How to not let control destroy our peace is different for everybody.

Kim admits that it’s very hard to let go of control, but she finds peace in music because she loves it. “Music helps me surrender,” says Kim.  

Merissa says her method is that she fails at letting go of control. “I really try to hold on, and I end in this deadly circle of the harder I try, the harder I have to try until, and I exhaust myself,” she says. But it’s at the point of exhaustion that she finally sees clearly.

The second thing Merissa does is to set up an Ebenezer any time she sees the hand of God. This reminds her of how God has taken control and done something remarkable in her life that brings peace.

Another method she uses is letting go of regrets caused by wrong decisions in the past. She lets go of regret to convince herself that the decision she made then is the best decision she could have made in that spot. Again, she quotes Maya Angelou, “You did what you knew how to do and when you knew better, you did better.”

Fourthly, she plays the what-if game. She takes the negative what-ifs like what if I just do this, will I get better? Or what if I fail? and turn them around into positive ones, like what if God succeeds in being who He is? What if He has a better plan? What if what I’m striving for isn’t important? What if I am missing His good because I’m looking for my comfortable? It is about understanding how big God is because “the smaller he gets in my world, the more fear I get,” she adds.

Amber, a team member of the Solo Parent podcast, takes a walk to look at beauty and things her soul cares about, like flowers, to let go of control and experience peace.

Robert lets go of control by meditating. “The practice of getting present and just getting into your senses and mindfulness rather than letting your brain bring yourself to a grounding spot and then letting go has been transformational,” he says.


How do you get rid of control which destroys our peace?

Face your fears. Name it. You don’t have to exaggerate or minimize it.

Surrender to God and be reminded of His promises.

Create some letting go tactics like mindfulness, walks, meditation, worship, what-if questions game.

Respond, don’t react. Take your time. Don’t feel you have to respond to everything immediately.

Don’t beat yourself up over things you’ve done in the past.

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