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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ehmke, MA, LPC

"Illusions" of Control

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Psalm 20:7 (NIV)

One theme has dominated my spiritual life since 2002 – God slowly, painfully, and lovingly stripping away my “illusions” of control.

I am not a controlling person by nature; at least I don’t think so (friends, speak-up if I’m wrong). I can easily go with the flow and don’t need things to be my way. So when I say God has been stripping away my “illusions” of control, what I’m really talking about is God challenging me in the areas where I put my trust for security.

Like most people, security IS important to me. Maintaining some resemblance of control makes me feel safe, and yet what God has taught me these past 18 years with unequivocal clarity is… I AM NOT IN CONTROL.

Whether it has been in my finances, marriage, career, physical health, or even in managing the lives of my children, over and over God has shown me the same thing.


So what does this mean? If I’m not in control, do I have any responsibility in these areas? And if I don’t, who does?

Well first of all, of course I have a responsibility to show up and be faithful in all areas of my life. But, what God has taught me (and is still teaching me) is to hold the outcome of my efforts loosely, leaving any and all consequences in his capable hands.

It sounds great on paper, but it’s much harder to live out.

I’ll be honest, at first this idea of letting my “illusions” of control go was more than a little anxiety provoking, but now (years and years later) I’m finding an overwhelming level of peace and comfort in knowing that God is in control and not me. It actually takes a tone of pressure off when I remember I’m only responsible to do my part and God is responsible for the rest.

I’ve witnessed this in many areas of life, but one specific season keeps coming to mind.

My husband came to know Christ as his Savior about 7 years into our marriage. Many things led to the day he prayed and received Jesus into his heart, but afterward I felt an overwhelming need to try and move his spiritual growth forward. Isn’t that what a good Christian wife would do?

Let’s just say me trying to control his spiritual growth was not a good thing for him or our marriage. Thankfully, God ripped that “illusion” of control away from me quickly without me causing too much damage. Still, I had a part to play. So I learned to pray for him regularly, encourage when appropriate, and then leave his spiritual growth to God.

As it turns out, during that season, my husband had “illusions” of control to release as well.

One day he was out in the driveway working on an old Chevy Suburban we had just purchased. It was a sight! The outside was a mixture of faded maroon and grey colors with lovely rust spots scattered about to add a nice effect. We lovingly referred to this vehicle as the “Red Rooster.”

On that particular day, he was trying to replace the rusted bolts from the wheels and it was NOT going well. Several times I wandered out to see how things were going only to quickly retreat, as his frustrations were evident.

Upon my last visit outside, I reluctantly made the ask, “How’s it going?” To which I received an intense, darting look that needed no explanation. Hesitantly I smiled and said, “I know it’s weird, but have you prayed about it?” Again, the intense look.

As I slowly backed away, I responded, “I just know that God cares about everything we struggle with and I thought maybe he could help, that’s all.” Then I quickly left.

About 15-20 minutes later, as I sat at the kitchen table writing out bills, I heard my husband enter the house through the garage. He walked straight over to me in the kitchen, lifted his hand, and set a rusted-out bolt in front of me on the table. Shaking his head in disbelief he said, “Well, I prayed, asked for help, and it immediately loosened.” Then he turned and walked out.

I didn’t follow because I knew God was revealing a lot about his character to my husband in that moment.

I believe that sometimes God uses even these trivial things in life to let us know that he is listening to our prayers and that he can be trusted to help if we’re willing to ask him.

As human beings, we are definitely more comfortable putting our trust in things we can see, touch, and manage. We love to trust in our strength, our bank accounts, and our hard work. But God continuously tells us in his word that there is a far better way to feel safe and secure.

It’s trusting in him.

Anything we look to for our help and security other than God will ultimately prove to be false, an "illusion." So why not learn to trust him now? I'm confident he will not disappoint.

For Your Reflection…

What or who are you trusting in for your security besides God? In what areas of life do you need to release your "illusions" of control?


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