Learning To Let Go // Love, Hope, & Forgiveness

Day 1 of 4 • This day’s reading

Devotional

Love Is Not Control

It feels like things are slipping away. Another day goes by. Another opportunity to love. You worry about time, that you don’t have what it takes to enter into relationship well. You are unsure of yourself, not confident in your role or your choices. The people you love are going one way and you don’t know how to keep up. You fear they’re pulling away from you. How do you hold onto them? How do you engage with them when you are not sure the first steps to do it?

It is an isolating place, for in the back of your mind you are working out what happens next. You want things figured out. It is difficult for you to not have a plan, a reason behind this decision or that one. You have your own motives, your desire to have control of things. But what if I told you that your only job was to love? And that that role, that task, that thing to do, is worth more focus than any other? And also this—that it is a lie that you are less able to experience joy than anyone else? And this: joy doesn’t come from controlling others?

This focus on controlling others needs to go. You hurt people when you try to control them. What makes you think you get to control others when I don’t even control you? Do you notice how I let you choose? Do you recognize that I love you enough to let you make your own choices, fall if you must fall, fail if you must fail—that I let you make choices so you succeed, or not? I love you too much to make you do things outside your will. I am here to love you. Guide you. Offer wisdom, if you want it. Offer my presence, if you desire it. I am here, always here, loving you. But I am not controlling you. There is no relationship of love when love is manipulated—used as a tool of control.

Do you love me? Do you know me? Do you believe me? Do you trust that my way is the way you should go? Then listen: it is okay that there are so many things you can’t fix. It is okay that there are so any things you can’t change. You see, what changes the course of something, truly, is one power that is more significant, more distinct, more persuasive and influential than any other: love. Your loving someone is giving that person the freedom to make choices on their own. Your loving someone means trusting that I am letting them choose their own way and that I am with them, just like I am with you. 

It is time to let go and trust me more. It is time to let go and recognize my love blankets you. It shields you, it guides you, it protects you. It is an illusion that your efforts to control someone bring you peace. The truth of control? It robs you of contentment. It distracts you from the fruit I have for you, right here: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I know you want this fruit. I know you want them more than any other. And I have them for you, right here, right now. But you have to surrender control first. You have to lay down your pride. You have to lay down your idol of believing control must be worshipped, chased down, fought for, surrendered to, at all costs. The truth is that your efforts to control others are pushing these people away from you, the opposite of what you hope controlling them would do. 

So, it is time to love now: here, study how I do it, recognize my ways with you, I love you—and love does not condemn; love does not push for its own way, love does not manipulate and twist truth. Love is kind, Love is gentle. Love is patient. Love does not keep tally of wrongs. Love forgives. Love perseveres. Love is not proud or rude. Love is not self-seeking or easily angered. Love unites and does not separate. I am with you. I will teach you. I am guiding you and loving you now. Not controlling you. So, surrender this, daughter, son. Let’s do this—love—together.

Exercise:

Let’s be honest, the people we care about most can drive us crazy the most. Am I right? They can hurt us. They can frustrate us. They can make bad choices. And all of that can make us want to do whatever it takes to protect them, to change them, to control them . . . for very good reasons. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.

And control is okay if we’re talking about a child. But what if we’re talking about a teenager becoming a man or a woman. Or what if we’re talking about children who are grown. Or what if we’re talking about adult siblings or close adult friends? Or what if we’re talking about our spouses?

In these latter cases, control isn’t okay. Not only is it not effective, but it also hurts the very people we say we care about and love. It pushes them further away and further from the original goals behind our attempts at control. And it reveals our pride too. It reveals how much we think of ourselves—that we should be the bosses of their lives; that we can be “gods,” actually, in their worlds.

But look, it’s not that we don’t get it. We are both guilty of this. We don’t like it when things don’t go our own way either. So we’ve been tempted as much as anyone to try to grab control—through anger, manipulation, withholding, withdrawal, and whatever else. And we’ve given in to those temptations as much as anyone else. But let’s not kid ourselves. Pride is sinful, and control is destructive. When we play god it separates us from God.

Holy Spirit says love is the most powerful force in the universe. That love, actually, is the only way people really mature, and grow, and change. He says, “Your loving someone is giving that person the freedom to make choices on their own. Your loving someone means trusting that I am letting them choose their own way and that I am with them, just like I am with you.” So, when we think about the people in our lives, the people we care deeply about, the people we love, we must begin asking ourselves . . . are we trying to control or are we trying to love?

Because Holy Spirit didn’t pull punches when spoke about the sinfulness of trying to control people. Here are His words again: “This focus on controlling others needs to go. You hurt people when you try to control them. What makes you think you get to control others when I don’t even control you? Do you notice how I let you choose? Do you recognize that I love you enough to let you make your own choices, fall if you must fall, fail if you must fail—that I let you make choices so you succeed, or not? I love you too much to make you do things outside your will. I am here to love you. Guide you. Offer wisdom, if you want it. Offer my presence, if you desire it. I am here, always here, loving you. But I am not controlling you. There is no relationship of love when love is manipulated—used as a tool of control.”

Wow. Okay. Yes. Those are some amazing words.

Jesus, I confess my efforts, and my desire, to control people. I confess my desire, and my efforts, to get my own wayto force things to turn out the way I want them to turn out. I confess I rule with force sometimes, rather than with influence. And I know that none of this is trusting You. I am trying to fix the situation. And I convince myself, even, that I what I am doing is an act of love. But it is not. It is an act of pride. I see that now. And I don’t want to do that anymore. So I repent of trying to control. I turn away from that behavior. I break the agreement I’ve made that I need to control. That if I don’t stand up and stand in, then no one will. I agree now in the opposite. I agree with You. That you know the people in my life better than I know them; that you love them more perfectly than I love them. And I entrust these people to You, Jesus. Will You help me entrust them to You?

Jesus, I consecrate my imagination now—my mind and my heart—to You. Show me the faces of the people I’ve been trying to control.

Now, I want you to picture yourself with this person or these people.

Are you there? Are they with you in the scene in your mind?

Okay, now I want you to imagine Jesus there too.

And now, I want you to, in your mind, in the scene, take the person or people you love by the hand, and walk them over to Jesus.

I want you to put their hands into His hands. I want you to let go. I want you to release them to the worthy King—the King of all Kings.

And I want you to tell Jesus now, I trust you. I entrust this person or these people, to You. I release them from my heart’s grip. They are Yours now. You love me, I know that. And Your love is enough for me. But Your love is enough for them, too

What is Jesus’ response to your surrender? What does He do with them or with you?

I love You, Jesus. You are so good. And I do trust You.

In your mighty name, I pray all these things, Amen.