The tears would flow each time the automobile drove down the long lane from the farm house. The woman sitting on the passenger’s side felt humiliated and beaten as she had to spend time with her overbearing mother-in-law. From the beginning of the marriage when the mother of the groom told the gathered guests that her son was marrying beneath himself, she systematically tried to control the lives of her family. She tried to control their jobs. She tried to control their parenting. She tried to control the grandchildren. Her forceful actions caused resentment, and at the time of her own husband’s death, not one wanted her to live with them. Her controlling ways had alienated those that she was supposed to love and nurture.
Control. Some believe it’s their mandate. Some believe they’re called to bring order. Some believe they’re the ones to get things done. But if we’re going around telling others what to do, trying to impose our own wills while not allowing others to express them own selves, then exerting power over another becomes a big, unhealthy problem. So why? Why do people feel the compulsion to control others and situations? Is there a lack of self-esteem? Do individuals feel out of control in their past or present lives? Is there a sense of worry that things won’t get done? Or is there a god-like complex? Incessant control is neither helpful or productive. In James 1:19 it says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Control and oppression are not of God!
Even though us humans like to be “puppet masters,” that’s not the Lord’s plan for our lives. God first freed us from the control of sin by sending Jesus to be our Savior. In Romans 6:6-7 it is written, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” Secondly, because we’ve been freed, we can love and serve other’s in Christ’s name. Galatians 5:13 says, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”
There will always be those who blatantly or covertly try to control others and events. But that darkness does not represent God. The Lord has ultimately freed us through the shed blood of Jesus himself so we can focus less on self, but more on others. And one of the ways we can do this is through encouragement. In I Thessalonians 5:11 it is written, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” And in Hebrews 10:24-25 it says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as it is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
There are various ways that we can offer this encouragement Maybe it’s through a kind word or an offer of support. Maybe it’s to recognize the talents in another or to be present in times of hurt and sadness. Maybe it’s through a call, email, text or instant message, or taking the time and praying for others. Encouragement is a powerful tool that has long lasting effects.
I remember a time when I first started at the seminary, and was having a hard time adjusting. Out of the blue came a phone call from my Uncle Gary who encouraged me in my studies and call. Later, he sent me a prayer that meant a great deal to him in his own life. His encouragement lifted me, and set me on a positive course.
Control is indeed fleeting, but freedom is forever. May Jesus break the strongholds of control in our lives, as we bask in his freedom to love and serve others.